Spalding RFC 36
Kesteven RFC 29
Spalding RFC moved back up to fourth in the Midlands Three East (North) table after beating rivals Kesteven in a thrilling derby clash on Saturday.
The Memorial Field victory ensures that Town remain unbeaten at home in the league this season and keeps them in touch with third-placed Belper.
Following selection problems the previous week – which saw them concede the match at Ashfield – Spalding were able to muster a front row this time out.
Harry Cole stepped in to fill one of the prop positions for the first time, while Josh Caley came back into the team at hooker.
And with regular prop Kev Hudson available and experienced duo Mark Haighton and Ryan Chappell called up, the Elephants looked to be in good shape to take on their county rivals.
It didn’t take long for the visitors’ defence to be caught napping as the ball was spread wide to right-winger Ben Shields.
With a burst of speed and a couple of side steps, he was through and smartly touched down the first try near the posts for Willis Ingleby to convert.
Kesteven soon settled into their game, plan using the forwards to good effect.
After Spalding won the first couple of scrums, the visitors started to have an upper hand and the forwards bundled over the line to open their account.
Enjoying more of the possession, the visitors were again deep in Spalding’s 22 and a poorly defended ruck in front of the posts allowed Kesteven’s scrum-half to nip in under the posts.
That meant that, with a quarter of an hour gone, Kesteven had a seven-point lead.
The game started to ebb and flow, but Town were gaining more possession with their backs starting to have an influence.
Fly-half Ingleby made a couple of good breaks and Gav Sharman on the left wing was beating the first tackler, but Kesteven’s defence held firm.
It fell to Shields to repeat his earlier effort as again his speed and agility saw him slice open Kesteven’s defence on the right wing.
With Ingleby converting again, Spalding now how a two-point advantage.
Kesteven responded from the kick-off, pinning Town back deep in their half.
Spalding’s defensive tackling was called upon and with scrum-half Will Shields receiving a yellow card, Kesteven kicked the penalty for a one-point lead.
Although a man down, the hosts best form of defence was attack – spreading the ball away from the forwards and the reward quickly came with Harry Sharman forcing his way over.
Ed Booth then came off the bench for Tom Wilson and, within a couple of minutes, captain Dan Adams at inside centre took a pass from Ingleby and broke the cover defence for an unconverted try.
With Ben Shields retaining the scrum-half position, Wilson was back on instead of Will Shields returning, with Booth moving to the wing.
Spalding were now in full flow and Harry Sharman went in for his second try of the afternoon just before the half-time whistle to make it 29-15.
However, Kesteven started the second half with a try from their number eight running through a couple of poor tackles – and the game was back on.
Spalding’s back row caused problems for Kesteven throughout the game and Ash Ankar’s strength took him over the line for a converted try, with the lead widening to 14 points.
Kesteven were still looking for an upset and again it was their number eight who broke through for a converted try.
Their cause was not helped when one of their forwards was yellow-carded but five minutes later Harry Sharman also received a yellow and for the final ten minutes
Spalding were a forward short.
The visitors piled on the pressure and dominated, so coach George Reid sent on Jason Steels and the returning Will Shields as fresh legs were need to replace Tim Waltham and Ben Shields.
Brave defence was called upon as Kesteven, with all the possession, were pounding away within metres of Spalding’s try line. A penalty for holding on and a turnover by Ingleby saw Spalding through at the end of a thrilling, but tense match.
This Saturday sees Town visit old foes Mansfield (2pm).