The talented teens from Spalding RFC under-17s were unable to end their season in style as they were beaten 12-0 in the Lincs Cup final by Lincoln under-17s.
Earlier in the season, Spalding had beaten the same opposition by a healthy margin – but Lincoln had learned their lesson and kept the ball away from the dangerous Town backline with a simple pick and drive game plan using their bulkier forwards.
Lincoln looked up for it from the off as they scrapped for everything.
Spalding, under pressure, were tackling well with centres Jack Whadcock and JJ Faulkner cutting out any threats.
However, the scrum was not going to plan and the ball was lost against the head, allowing Lincoln to push play deep into the Spalding 22. Town were soaking up lots of pressure, but Tom Birdseye and Jake Morris were needed to put in some thunderous hits.
Spalding recovered when outside half Mark Hendy pounced on a mistake and broke free. The forwards were there in support to allow scrum-half James Thomas to put boot to ball and push his side up to halfway.
Undeterred, Lincoln never allowed Spalding quick ball – and what ball they received was slow for Thomas to dig out. Full back Adam Castle was another threat with the boot and used the wind well, putting in two excellent touch finders to push Lincoln back into their half.
Captain Tom Birdseye was excellent in the lineout and a real threat, even on Lincoln ball. When Spalding attacked there were no runners who broke the line, instead they found themselves going from side to side until they forced things and lost the ball.
Lincoln, with their simple game plan, moved play up field by punching holes and making yards.
In doing so, Town were giving away penalties and the referee soon decided to yellow card Birdseye.
Seizing their chance, Lincoln kicked for the corner and stormed the Spalding line with a man up to score and go 5-0 ahead. The conversion was missed.
The rest of the first half was played in the middle of the pitch like a game of chess, frustrating Spalding as they wanted to play quick expansive rugby.
William Parsons, one of five under-16s in the squad, had a good show on the wing, running at defence and putting in kicks under pressure.
Prop Ben Rippon was industrious and flanker Alex Watson linked well, but the size and power of Lincoln always won the arm wrestle.
In the second half, the rain began to come down harder. Hooker Callum Scuffham returned to his normal position of back row and was replaced by Fraser Leiper, back after breaking his arm.
Leiper was straight into the action with some great hits. But, in the wet weather, mistakes were aplenty and a lot of ball was either lost in the contact or dropped.
It was with a loose ball on the floor that saw proceedings halted after a nasty injury to Harry Wilkinson-Roberts. As the forward dropped on a loose ball, a Lincoln player was looking to kick up field and the Town ace took the brunt of the kick to the head.
When play resumed Spalding tried to up the tempo. Hendy and Castle were looking to punch holes and Parsons broke up the wing to look to score, but was tackled short.
Thomas also broke but was held up, while Leiper and Chris Emery could not squeeze over. Lincoln then gave away a penalty and Spalding kicked to the corner, but the throw in wasn’t straight and the chance went.
Birdseye, back on from the sin bin, also had a break as he beat two defenders – but that last pass would not go to hand.
With Town clearly getting frustrated, Lincoln were able to pounce on a loose ball and charge up the field to score their second. The conversion hit both sets of up rights and went over.
Spalding pushed to get a score on the board, but the savvy Lincoln pack had other ideas and slowed the play right down and played out the clock to win the county cup 12-0 – leaving a below par Town to rue an opportunity missed.
There was some better news off the field, with Wilkinson-Roberts given the all-clear after a scan.
Town: Chris Emery, Callum Scuffham, Ben Rippon, Jake Morris, Elliot Kulleseid, Willis Ingleby, Tom Birdseye, James Thomas, Mark Hendy, Ciaran Thompson, JJ Faulkner, Jack Whadcock, William Parsons, Adam Castle, Harry Cole, Fraser Leiper, Finlay Smiley, Harry Wilkinson-Roberts and Alex Watson