ASHBOURNE’S promotion hopes are over after they suffered a dismal defeat to rock-bottom Melton Mowbray last weekend.
Pre-Shrovetide thoughts were obviously distracting the majority of the squad, and a lacklustre attitude was punished by a home team desperate for points and welcoming back several first choice players after long absences.
Given that Ashbourne had scored 140-plus points against the same club in the previous two encounters this season, the whole afternoon was a glum affair.
A three-week break from playing did not help, and with a number of players standing down because of Shrovetide, the side looked stale and disjointed.
Conceding a try within three minutes set out the tale of the first half as poor first up tackling, a failure to maintain possession and lack of strength in the scrum all made the home side look good.
It did not help when prop Tom Clayton left the field with an ankle injury and then hooker Lewis Robinson with a finger problem.
However they did return to the field later, making an important impact in the later stages.
The visitors’ error count was high, the tackling soft without any real bite.
Melton scored two more tries in the half with Ashbourne’s only points coming from Dan Carter’s boot, and the score was 15-3 half-time.
A strong talk from captain Jimmy Carter, who also brought himself off the bench, did see some improvement from the restart as possession was maintained and the scrummage solid.
However a decent attack from Melton saw them extend their lead to 22-3 against the run of play.
This seemed at last to give Ashbourne some spirit and from here on they were the better team.
A slight slope and increasing wind gave half backs Mark Maznenko and Rich Smith chance to find decent field positions and centre Adam Curley began to receive decent fast ball, while line breaks started occurring.
Three tries in 20 minutes from Ashbourne’s Andy McKinlay, Monty Lyon and Chris Halling saw them get right back in the game.
Melton grapped a drop goal in the rout and Ashbourne only kicked one conversion in a late rally, but the visitors did not really deserve to win after an appalling first half effort.
ASHBOURNE: Clayton, Robinson, Heath, Naylor, Greenway, Lyon, Broom, S Maznemko, M Maznenko, Smith, Curley, Worthington, D Carter, Farr, McKinlay, J Carter, Cope, Halling.
ASHBOURNE Under-14s picked up back-to-back wins in friendlies against Dronfield and Southwell.
Against Dronfield, the youngsters ran out seven tries to nil winners over opposition that had already given them two tough games this season.
The tries came from six different scorers as Jack Bowers scored two, and was joined on the scoresheet by Charlie Hart, George Beard, Al Monteith, Bertie Linnell and Oscar Wainwright.
Dronfield really had no answer for the fast flowing, total rugby Ashbourne brought to this game, with the visitors clearly releasing some pent up frustration brought on by their long lay off.
Despite a strong cross wind, Will Farr was able convert two of these tries to make the final score 39-0.
On the following Sunday, Ashbourne had a far sterner test at home to Southwell but won 20-5.
The visitors certainly had the size to give Ashbourne problems but seemed to over-rely on using that bulk, and the U14s never buckled.
Three great team tries were the result, scored by Archie Shaw, Toby Doran and Farr, who also kicked a penalty and a conversion.
Squad: Howson, Doran, Dawson, Hart, Wright, Young, Mousley, Beard, Shaw, Farr, Mines, Brown, Bowers (capt), Wainwright, Linnell, Monteith, Cooper, Edge, Dowling, McHugh, Edge, Simpson-Allsop, Bennett, T Dixon.