ASHBOURNE booked a place in the Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire (NLD) Cup final after a magical try from Jack Bowers earned victory over Newark in Sleaford.
The youngsters started brightly, but so did their opposition, with the teams trading blows and tackles were flying in from both sides, forcing handling errors and frequent scrums.
The opposition seemed to have physically, a much larger side, however this did not seem to favour Newark at scrums, with Ashbourne holding their own.
The forwards continued this physical competitiveness at the ruck and maul, recycling the ball better than they had all season.
This endeavour was needed against Newark, by far the strongest team they had faced at the breakdown.
With a functioning line out as well, Ashbourne’s forwards were definitely in the game, gradually gaining an advantage on the larger opposition pack.
Out wide, the backs were initially called upon for defensive duties, being tight and compact in the midfield and therefore forcing the Newark backs out wide, only to be stopped in their tracks by the ever reliable back three.
As half-time approached, the first half looked to be ending scoreless, until a moment of magic broke the deadlock. Much to the surprise of the Ashbourne coaches and supporters, Ashbourne set off on the attack whilst still deep in their own half. When Jack Bowers caught the ball, the whole Newark side and 70m lay before him and the try line. Off he set in a long, arcing run around the entire defence, outpacing several defenders before scoring probably one of the finest individual tries ever seen on this Sleaford pitch. Will Farr therefore had the relatively straightforward conversion to make the score 7-0 just before half time.
The second half looked slightly different to the first, both teams took turns to have a go at the opposition, but this time the action was much closer to the try lines. Initially it was Ashbourne probing for a second score, coming close on a few occasions, but coming up short thanks to some very strong Newark defence. Then it was Ashbourne’s turn: the Derbyshire side spent almost the entire final quarter defending their try line. Newark came very close on a number of occasions, only to be repelled by some brave defending from Ashbourne. No greater example of this was the tackle put in by Harry Zona, who launched himself at his much larger opponent, almost knocking himself out in the process and stopping a certain try. With all players on both sides running out of steam, having covered a lot of ground in a game which rarely took a breath, the final whistle brought relief for all and victory to Ashbourne.
Jack’s great try and Harry’s sheer guts in defence epitomised what the whole Ashbourne squad are about: ferocious and stoic defence, flair and adventure in attack. They can now look forward to taking their well deserved place in the final in April and their much-appreciated travelling support can, therefore, enjoy another great coach trip.