Belper are still searching for their first win of the season after Ashfield’s young guns fired a warning shot to their league opponents with a 12-8 win.
From the kick-off, Belper enjoyed the early exchanges and territory advantage and it took Ashfield eight minutes to fashion their first meaningful attack. Returning from a club one match ban for his red card against Buxton, captain and number 8 Gareth Jones broke the gain-line.
Jones feed the ball to Jake Manning on his outside, took on the defence and in turn feed the ball to left wing Rob Kirk, who was halted by the Belper fullback to save a certain try.
Unbeknown to Kirk, the referee was playing an advantage for an earlier infringement by Belper and, with a penalty awarded to Ashfield, it gave Billy North the opportunity to score an early three points.
But North clipped the outside of the right hand upright and the game was still all square.
Belper then fashioned two good opportunities, but on each occasion their poor handling would be their undoing.
Back came Ashfield through right wing Jake Moss, who had been played in by Billy North. Without last ditch tackling by Belper, an Ashfield try would have been scored.
The first score of the game came on 25 minutes when a solid scrum gave Ashfield a platform to drive the Belper pack backwards.
Not able to withstand the pressure, the rolling maul was taken down, and Ashfield won a penalty.
Billy North kicked the ball to touch deep into the Belper 22 and from the resulting line-out, a quick ball from scrum half Tyler Morgan set Jake Manning free. Manning then broke three tackles and scored from 10m out and under the posts, with North converting.
Belper then raised their game and with several passages of play they found themselves close to the Ashfield 22.
With pressure mounting Ashfield gave away a penalty, the resulting kick sailed through the uprights to cut the score to 7-3.
The score gave Belper the energy to take the game to Ashfield and within minutes another try scoring opportunity would go begging through poor handling.
Belper went in ahead at the break after good handling led to an uncoverted try in the corner.
Ashfield’s forwards were again in the ascendancy in the second half as Greg Newbutt, Andy Bennett and Dan Chapman laid the foundations for Manning’s second try of the game.
Supported by Tyler Morgan and Chapman again, Manning dived into the corner. The following conversion was missed to give Ashfield a 12-8 lead.
This was the spark that saw Ashfield vertically encamped in the Belper half for phase after phase.
Last ditch and courageous tackling drove Ashfield back time and time again ensuring the game did not get out of their reach.
This saw Belper lay siege to the Ashfield try line and a rear guard action that witnessed every Ashfield player having to make tackle after tackle, but no one on either side would play with the same tenacity as Tyler Morgan, an awesome individual performance.
Belper had one last chancxe to win the game with a scrum on the Ashfield 5m line.
Their solid scrum inched forward and at the right time the ball was released from its base.
With a gap to run into, the Belper scrum half, with the try line looming, dived forward, arm outstretched, arching downwards, but dropped the ball and leave Belper wondering what might have been.