Spalding RFC 10
Notts Casuals 24
Spalding RFC put in a performance to be proud of against runaway Midlands Three East (North) Nottingham Casuals on Saturday.
Hosts Town lost their unbeaten home league record at the Memorial Field with a 24-10 reverse, but earned much respect for playing for 55 minutes with a man less after John Barrett’s red card.
With The Elephants on an unbeaten home league run and Notts Casuals having won all their league matches, there was a level of expectation that this would be a first class clash, between two teams who like to play fast attacking rugby.
Coach George Reid’s team selection was a relatively easy affair as he looked for a pack of forwards who would not only hold their own in the scrum, but be mobile to counter Casuals running and offloading game.
With this in mind Ryan Chappell was selected at lock alongside Jordan Templar. Young prop Harry Cole retaining his place up front, with Will Shields at openside flanker for his speed around the park and to the breakdown.
From the kick-off by fly half Willis Ingleby, Spalding immediately pinned Casuals back deep in their half with the backs, lead by captain Dan Adams, closing down space shutting out options to run with ball.
But Casuals are a very good team and they too were soon gaining territory, but Spalding’s counter rucking was impressive, led by Ash Anker. Within the first quarter two turnovers were won by Town as Casuals were penalised for holding on.
With 25 minutes of exciting and competitive rugby played, the referee unfortunately intervened. Spalding’s hooker Barrett was attempting to exit a ruck, following play, with a Casuals player lying on the floor, illegally hanging onto his leg. In attempting to break free the referee judged Barrett to have stamped on the Casuals player and issued a red card.
Most observers, at best, thought either a yellow card or a penalty the appropriate sanction.
With a man down and 55 minutes to play, Spalding were facing a daunting task ahead, but what happened next took the opposition by complete surprise.
Spalding playing with ball in hand and found Ed Booth on the ring wing, near the half way line, with no room.
Somehow, Booth squeezed passed the first tackler with the side line inches away and then turned on the accelerator. He passed a second defender, then a third and cut back inside to beat the last man for an outstanding try.
With this encouragement Spalding were making breaks all over the field, but the final pass was just not going to hand. At the breakdown, the Elephants were again challenging, causing disruption to Casuals possession and further turnovers won.
Casuals lost their number eight to a yellow card and with the half time whistle, the visitors retreated to the changing rooms for a dressing down by their coach.
Within minutes of the restart, the referee was again issuing a yellow card to Jordan Templar, but this further loss of a player did not stop Spalding with Ryan Chappell – with speed and strength – always making inroads and combining well with Harry Sharman.
Town soon turned possession within Casuals’ five metre area into points, as Cole drove through defenders to touched down for a ten point lead.
A team is generally most vulnerable immediately after scoring and Casuals opened their account as they ran in their first try thanks to perhaps a lapse in concentration and missed tackles.
Matt Heaton came off the bench for his first team deputy in the front row, replacing Kev Hudson with Sam Forrest also replacing Tom Wilson at outside centre.
The referee produced his yellow card again, this time for Casuals’ number 12, but with Spalding starting to tire following all their first half efforts with a one man down.
The away side were finding room for their speed merchants, claiming their second try to go two points clear with 15 minutes remaining on the clock.
Spalding’s Sharman was the next one on the wrong end of a further referee decision.
Casuals forwards were starting to make breaks and he went to ground with the tackled player, who laid the ball back. Crucially no ruck was established at the breakdown. Spotting this, Sharman dived on the available ball securing possession, but received a yellow card.
With the hosts now deprived of two forwards, Casuals were exerting pressure in the scrums with Spalding going backwards at pace and a succession of collapsed scrums could not stop the visitors claiming their third try.
During the second half, Town’s outstanding player was young Conall Mason at full back. Time and again his last man tackling invariably downed his man.
And, when a relieving kick was required, his boot never failed to find touch or distance and at the end of the game was voted Spalding’s man of the match
Another error of judgement by the referee then brought further problems for Town, as Casuals knocked on and Spalding hacked the ball forward about ten metres with
Casuals regaining possession. Play was allowed to continue – to Spalding’s dismay – and with an immediate overload advantage out wide, Casuals had secured their bonus point win.
Town: Harry Cole, John Barrett, Kev Hudson, Jordan Templar, Ryan Chappell, Ash Anker, Will Shields, Harry Sharman, Ben Shields, Willis Ingleby, Gav Sharman, Dan Adams, Tom Wilson, Ed Booth, Conall Mason. Subs: Matt Heaton, Richard Lucas.