RIDING high on the shoulders of the Up’ards that had fought hard with him all the way, Dan Naylor was carried in to the home of Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide, the Green Man Royal Hotel.
It was a moment the Up’ards had fought hard for from the moment the ball was turned up,.
They had dominated what was an exciting day of play from start to finish that ended in joy, at 7.13pm, for the Up’ards and day one defeat for the Down’ards.
A blue sky greeted thousands of people who turned out to watch Shrove Tuesday’s action and, despite the growing number of people flocking to Ashbourne to enjoy the spectacle of Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide, yesterday’s game was open, fast and furious.
Muddy surfaces and plenty of water play made for an exciting game, with Shrovetiders able to open the hug up on plenty of occasions, giving plenty of glimpses of the ball, which held up well to its relentless battering.
From the moment of Stuart Lees’s hefty turn up, which saw the ball propelled well into Shaw Croft from his honorary vantage point at the plinth, the Up’ards looked to be holding on to an advantage.
The Down’ards certainly fought hard and refused to let go, but breaks came thick and fast, catching the thousands of spectators by surprise and leaving them running around either to follow the hug, or escape its path.
In fact, within 10 minutes the play had moved off from the open expanse of Shaw Croft and in to Park Road. The Up’ards were pushing harder, but the Down’ards weren’t letting go.
The Down’ard surge quickly had the ball back in Shaw Croft and it settled in the adjacent flats.
It was 3pm before the ball made its next assertive move away from Shaw Croft - but only as far as the Fishpond Meadow overspill car park off Park Road.
It didn’t hang around long, and was soon ushered into the pond itself.
The fishpond always opens the play up and gives onlookers a treat but it was quickly wrestled out and made its way up into the children’s play area.
The skirmish saw yet more stunning water play but it was herded away up the hill towards Cokayne Avenue where it took an unusual turn not often seen towards Ashbourne Hall.
The rear of the former library building and self catering apartment complex was swamped, after followers caught up with the action, which settled for a short while to allow the Up’ards to wrestle control back and drag it to Park Road and, once again, in to Shaw Croft.
From here, the hug circulated again in Park Road, Shaw Croft, and even made it back in to the pond and the Down’ards again made a strong effort to bring it back into their field of play.
But it was too late. The Up’ards were stealing the game from their grasp. The surge continued and made its way into the fields beyond the QEGS sports field. It was on its way to Sturston.
Slowly but surely the hug forced its way through the fields and towards Sturston Mill, where a large crowd had gathered to watch what they hoped would be a goal.
Their hopes (and fears) were answered when, at 7.13pm, Dan Naylor tapped the leather on the millstone three times to set this year’s score at 1-0 to the Up’ards.