Spalding RFC 18 Stockwood Park 5
Spalding RFC made it seven home wins on the spin by completing an impressive Midlands Three East (South) double over Stockwood Park on Saturday.
Town triumphed 18-5 at the Memorial Field to move up to fifth in the table – and moved to within three points of fourth-placed Stockwood in the process.
The early exchanges were tight, with both teams quick to close down space.
Spalding were looking to their forwards to cross the gain line with their carries, followed by scrum-half Will Shields setting up the next phase
Meanwhile, Stockwood were looking to their scrum-half to move the ball out quickly with their running and passing game.
The opening 15 minutes saw neither team take advantage.
But, when Stockwood infringed at the breakdown, the Elephants accepted their first opportunity to score as fly-half Conall Mason, confidently stepped up and successfully converted into the wind.
Spalding soon started to exert pressure, with locks Ash Piccaver and Ash Anker making decent ground with strong carries, along with prominent flanker Harry Cole.
Pressure was also starting to mount on the Stockwood scrum, with props Pete Waudby and Luke Turner starting to win their battles.
The visitors were using the speed of their backs to make headway – but each time they threatened, centres Dan Adams and George Brown managed to cut them down with their unrelenting tackles, helped by flanker Jack Patrick.
With half-time approaching, Stockwood pressurised a Town lineout and stole the ball.
Again, their scrum-half passed the ball out quickly to their backs and this time space was created out wide for their winger to score an unconverted try.
Spalding responded immediately from the restart, with Anker evading tackles. From the ruck, Shields popped the ball up to Piccaver to try and drive his way over the try line, but he was held up.
A five-metre scrum to Town followed and Harry Sharman picked up at the base and forced his way over for a half time lead of 8-5.
With only a penalty kick separating the teams, it was all to play for in the second half – and it was Spalding who sprang an unexpected surprise.
In possession, Town were looking to spread the ball, but the visitors’ defence was up and holding firm when Mason slid a grubber kick through.
Left winger Gav Sharman chased and showed his footballing skills with a couple of kicks and a final pick up before going over for an unconverted try, with Mason’s kick hitting the posts.
Stockwood responded well, as Spalding’s defence was caught offside on a couple of occasions and their kick to touch resulted in a lineout five metres out.
However, the home team stole the ball thanks to an overthrow and cleared their lines.
The second offside saw a repeat, but with Stockwood winning their ball. Ruck after ruck followed, with Town’s defence being really tested, but they held firm and finally cleared their lines.
Centre George Brown, with a slight hamstring strain, was then substituted with Tim Waltham going to flanker, Patrick moving to full-back and Willis Ingleby switching to outside centre.
That was followed ten minutes later by Anker being replaced by Will Cole.
The last 15 minutes was all Spalding pressure, as a long clearance kick pinned Stockwood back on their five metre line.
The visitors struggled to make any headway against Town’s superb tackling and, when possession was turned over, the home forwards were still playing it tight with Turner and Waudby proving difficult to stop.
Frustration built within the Stockwood team and the referee called both captains forward to calm proceedings down a little.
Still, the visitors were unable to make any headway in the forwards and were using their backs to spread the ball out wide on the left, but again found Ingleby and Ben Shields in their way.
Frustrated again, Stockwood started to concede further penalties with Ingleby kicking deep into the corner.
Piccaver was stopped from going over, then Harry Sharman was stopped and Turner was blocked as the point of attack moved infield.
Finally after further penalties were conceded Harry Sharman squeezed over the try line with the last play of the match to complete a notable double.
Next up for Town is the rearranged fixture at Rushden and Higham (3pm) as they bid to climb into the top four of the standings.
Spalding RFC: Luke Turner, John Barrett, Pete Waudby, Ash Anker, Ash Piccaver, Jack Patrick, Harry Cole, Harry Sharman, Will Shields, Conall Mason, Gav Sharman, Dan Adams, George Brown, Ben Shields and Willis Ingleby. Subs: Callum Lewis, Will Cole and Tim Waltham.