Good start to the season
Ashbourne 19 Leek Tigers 64
Leek began their season in style with ten-tries against a strong and well-drilled Ashbourne team.
Set piece dominance, aggressive defence and a power running game were strengths for the Tigers throughout the match, and they also showed some creative touches despite early season rustiness.
Their ability to turn defence into attack was key to their success, and led to the first try. From a scrum on their on five metre line, Tom Rigby went on a trademark arcing run down the field. Several phases later, with Harvey Dunleavy to the fore in the rucks, Oliver Powell drove over the line from close range. Byrne hit the first of seven conversions to make it 0-7.
Matt Beardmore grabbed the next following a stolen line-out in Leek territory, Oliver Corden making the crucial line break to send the Tigers' second-row turned centre clear from half way (0-14).
A kick over the advancing Ashbourne line saw their full-back fumble the ball under pressure, and this time Corden set up James Hunt for the score (0-19).
Rigby claimed the fourth after surging runs from Powell and Hunt and quick hands from Beardmore and centre partner Olly Ryder set him up (0-24).
And then the Moorlanders relaxed and let their hosts back into the game. Sloppy play deep in their own half gave Ashbourne a scrum, from which the ball was scrambled out to the left wing for a score in the corner (7-24).
Then two penalties in quick succession saw Leek in retreat, conceding another scrum from which a series of phases saw a home try close to the posts to make the half-time score 14-24.
A scrum on halfway after the kick-off failed to go ten metres put the Tigers on the front foot at the start of the second period. A Powell drive led to a quickly-taken penalty, from which the ball came to Rhys Walton, returning after a season away, who swerved between two defenders to score on the left wing (14-31).
Against a rapidly-tiring defence, Leek finally began to use their power runners through the middle, a surge from Jared Leftwich setting up Powell for his second (14-36).
Another successful scrum on half-way saw Byrne kick deep into the Ashbourne 22, and several phases later Leftwich picked up from a ruck to crash over for the score (14-43).
Byrne's clearing kick from inside his ten-metre line put Leek back in attack. Leftwich cleared out a ruck for Charlie Breen to break free and feed Beardmore for the easy try (14-50). Straight from the restart, Beardmore fielded the ball from his own 22 and powered through some half-hearted tackles to complete his hat-trick (14-57).
It was time for the Tigers to try a few party pieces, and Byrne duly obliged with a crossfield kick that Jack Fryer safely gathered for the Moorlanders' final score (14-64).
Ashbourne kept their heads high despite the Leek onslaught, and responded in kind with the final play of the game, successfully fielding their own crossfield kick to score on the right wing (19-64).
A great start to the season for the Tigers, but still plenty to work on in Thursday training before the first league game of the season against Tamworth next weekend.