Nottingham Casuals 24 Ashfield 12
By Lech Kluk
Casuals clinch promotion with 5 games to go, the league title, and a place in a second cup final.
Midlands 3 East (North)
Nottingham Casuals 24 Ashfield 12
Casuals went into round 17 of the league taking on Nottinghamshire rivals Ashfield, who were in joint 2nd place, equal on points with Belper.
Casuals needed to win this tie, and then look to winning possibly one more game to seal the promotion and the title. In the event, Casuals not only won the game, which was a double header, with a place at stake in the Nottinghamshire cup finals, they also secured promotion with Belper losing against Kesteven.
With 5 games to go, and a maximum of 25 points on offer, Casuals lead of 26 points is unassailable, barring a major disaster.
Casuals took to the pitch with another raft of changes, some positional, from the previous week, including a league debut for flanker Clement Chardin. Countryman Amaury Montarnal made a start at prop, instead of coming on a sub, and Liam Tighe was shifted to the wing from centre. Simon Roberts was a late casualty because of a training ground mishap, so Jon Ackroyd once again found himself at lock, instead of his normal role at flanker.
Casuals were unfazed by the changes, showing their determination very early on. They retained possession from kick off, gradually working the field position, and after 4 minutes Kris Jakuba made a telling break up the left wing, taking play right up to Ashfield’s 5 metre. The visitors were unable to retain possession in the lineout, and Stu Williams latched onto the ball to score when the maul was driven over.
2 minutes later Jon Ackroyd crossed for the next try, adding to his growing tally for the season, with Mark Higgins successfully kicking the conversion.
Ashfield showed they were not in the mood to be over-run as a decent backs move led to their 1st try after 20 minutes, and the scoreline of 12 points to 5.
Casuals hit back as they increased their lead only a few moments later. Lock Kieran Maisonnet showing his running ability cut through, he set Jakuba free, and when he had virtually made it to Ashfield’s line, he turned the ball inside for Higgins with the line totally undefended, he crossed for the try, which he then converted.
It looked all on that Casuals were going to run away with the game, but despite all their domination , they were frustrated not only by Ashfield’s defences, but also by their own inability to cling onto possession. Taking their foot off the throttle either side of half time.
They were clearly frustrated as they could not convert their possession and territory into another score, as they lost the thread, trying to overdo play and force the game. Their patterns were clearly not working, and something had to change. The last few weeks has seen similar periods, but at least this time 3 tries were already in the bag. It looked as if it would only be a matter of time before they would get the 4th try, and the habitual bonus point.
It fell to Jakuba to take on the Ashfield defence, using his pace to outstrip the cover and sprint in from 40 metres. The gap was already looking too great for Ashfield to come back, to upset the hosts, and it would have taken one more try to quell their enthusiasm, but some lax cover by Casuals, as they failed to latch on to a bouncing kick ahead. An Ashfield back latched on to the loose ball, and left Casuals’ defence looking a bit red faced at the easy way they managed to let one man to go clear.
A little too late to make any significant difference to the outcome. Casuals were able to run down the time, clinching the win, the title, promotion, and a place in another final to boot. NLD and Nottinghamshire finals beckon.
Next week Casuals travel to Bakewell to take on a resurgent Mannerians side, hoping to keep the season moving to a crescendo.
Casuals have so far only lost to Northampton Casuals in the RFU cup, whilst racking up 17 wins in the league, grabbing 15 try bonus points in the process.
The game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. kick off.
Lady Manners School
1. Amaury Montarnal
2. Pete Underwood
3. Steve Baraniak
4. KIeran Maisonnet
5. Jon Ackroyd
6. Graeme Roberts
7. Clement Chardin
8. Stu (Williams
9. Mark Higginss
10. Yann Moysey
11. Kris Jakuba
12. James Wood
13. Brodie Howatson
14. Liam Tighe
15. Dan O’Connor
16. Richard Gill
17. Chris Brownlie??
18. Niall O'Kane