Divisional Shield: Ashton 13-13 Dukinfield
Ashton played local rivals Dukinfield for the first time for several years as the two clubs have long been in different sections in the labyrinth of the RFU pyramid. Now competing in the same section of the Lancashire League system, they were drawn together on Saturday in the Divisional Shield, coming together in a hard fought tussle which ultimately ended in stalemate.
The visitors had the definite edge over the first ten minutes but as Ashton came more into the game a Tom Costello penalty on 22 minutes put them ahead. Dukinfield came roaring back upfield after this, putting heavy pressure on the home line. They were unable to ground the ball however and Ashton hearts were briefly raised when the ball was cleared into touch. Unfortunately when they were penalised for pulling down, Field switched the ball quickly to the right where they were rewarded with a try in the corner.
Play was still swinging both ways, and with neither defence conceding much, most of it was confined to the centre of the field. With half time approaching Ashton did get thing moving again, and when they forced a penalty, Costello inched them back into a short-lived lead. The visitors pressed forward again only for some close encounter work to end in a bit of a fracas, and after Alex Maynard had been shown the yellow card, a Dukinfield penalty put them 8-6 in front at the interval.
Ashton pressed towards the opposition line from the second half whistle in the second half and good work from the forwards led to a break from young prop forward George McCallum which took him just a couple of metres short. As he turned in the tackle he seemed to have lost the ball but he maintained his equilibrium long enough to hack it forward for Sean Thorley to chase it over the line and touch down for a try. Costello was on target with the conversion which put his side in front by 13 points to 8.
When the visitors conceded a penalty shortly afterwards, Costello might just have been able to push the home side further ahead but for the only time in the afternoon he was unable to convert the kick, and the game reverted to the same battle in the midfield area with both teams sending their big men foraging forward only to meet with some unyielding tackling.
Then as the final ten minutes approached Dukinfield got their forwards on the move and after they had turned over Ashton line out ball on the right the ball was quickly transferred left. The home side tracked it all the way and forced another line out but the visitors won this cleanly and set up a rolling maul which brought them an equalising try. With Eugene Swarts becoming the second home player to see yellow, it looked as if the remaining 14 would come under heavy pressure for what was left of the game, and so it proved. They kept the tackles going in, but right at the death they conceded a penalty and it looked as if the visitors might steal the game. The ball rebounded into play off the post though, and it was joyfully kicked dead to bring the game to an end.
With little quarter given, neither side was really dominant throughout and a draw was probably a fitting result.
By Ian Crickett