THIS tussle between third-placed Oakham and fourth-placed Ashbourne went the hosts’ way in the last two minutes.
The second promotion spot was already out of reach for either team, but the long trip and the motivation to upset a large crowd celebrating Vice Presidents’ Day saw Ashbourne start brightly.
Pace, off loads and superb linking between forwards and backs gave the visitors an early lead through Mark Broom after five minutes.
Everything was accurate and things looked good, and the home crowd were silent, almost shocked.
However, with their first decent spell of possession, Oakham opened up through their speedy backs, the left winger being put over wide out.
The hard conversion was successful and the hosts led 7-5.
Oakham added a penalty but then centres Adam Curley and Jimmy Carter ripped through Oakham’s defence on several occasions, eventually giving left wing Andy McKinlay a chance which he finished well.
The Ashbourne pack were again strong in both scrums and lineouts, but a stream of penalties saw hard-gained ground lost for what appeared to be handling on the floor.
Three visits deep into Oakham’s 22 came away without points and it was level at 10-10 at the break.
Ed Worthington kicked an early three-pointer in the second half to give Ashbourne the lead again.
Oakham scored their second try soon after but Ashbourne replied through Monty Lyon after the forwards mounted immense pressure in the home side’s 22, this time not conceding a penalty.
It was 18-17 to Ashbourne and though Oakham still benefitted from Ashbourne increasing penalty count, they failed to land two kickable shots.
The visitors’ forwards were still in charge but continued to fall foul of the referee’s whistle.
The game was now for either team to take with 15 minutes left.
Oakham scored a penalty then Ashbourne replied with a try after a great individual run from skipper Carter.
Worthington converted and it was 25-20 to Ashbourne with 10 minutes remaining.
The home crowd lifted their team who then scored twice as the visitors wilted, again ground being needlessly lost through low level misdemeanours in the loose.
Ashbourne would have won if the penalty count was reasonable as they had the best forwards and the backs were at least equal to the home sides.
ASHBOURNE: Heath, Wright, Clayton, Ford, Rose, S Maznenko, Lyon, Broom, M Maznenko, P Maznenko, McKinley, Curley, Carter, Farr, Worthington, Halling, Sellers.