Spalding RFC 24
Newbold on Avon 14
A dramatic late try from Ben Williams steered Spalding RFC back to the promised land of Midlands One East as they delivered in Saturday’s winner-takes-all promotion play-off.
Town were never behind in the Midlands Two East play-off with South division runners-up Newbold on Avon.
Skipper Harry Sharman ran in a first-half try, while James West kicked 14 points to put Spalding in command at 19-14 before Williams touched down in the dying seconds to seal the success.
In front of one of the largest crowds – estimated at 400 – at the Memorial Field for a number of years, Spalding kicked off with the assistance of the wind and they were soon rewarded with a penalty on the 22 metre line.
West had no hesitation and opened his side’s score with a clean conversion after only three minutes.
Bidding to extend their advantage, Town then made good use of the ball as Sharman and hooker Wes Cope broke through the Newbold defence but they were stopped before the home side could take advantage of the move.
Undeterred, visitors Newbold hit back and levelled after nine minutes when Joss Andrews buried a penalty into a strong wind.
Spalding regrouped and were constantly looking for opportunities to go back ahead. A quick throw by Cope eventually found Tom Duerden, who was stopped ten metres shy of the line.
The referee wasn’t happy with the way Duerden had been stopped though – and West converted his second penalty to make the score 6-3 after 15 minutes.
Now on the front foot, Spalding attacked with left winger Harry Harrison making progress before being stopped. However, Newbold hit back and took play into the home side’s half where they were awarded a penalty. Despite the difficult conditions, Andrews again converted to level the score on 22 minutes.
Parity didn’t last too long, with the hosts grabbing the first try of the game. Town were awarded another penalty and Cope took a quick tap and broke through a tackle, before passing to Sharman – who crossed the line wide near the left touch and made some metres before touching down.
West duly converted to take the score to 16-6 after 30 minutes of the first half.
There was a timely reminder that Spalding still had much to do, though, as Newbold hit back moments before the interval.
They were putting pressure on the home side’s forwards and from a lineout close to the Spalding line they drove forward and touched down. The conversion went wide, but Town’s lead was now just 16-11.
Playing against the wind in the second period, Spalding made a few tactical changes with George Brown replaced by Ed Booth and Adam McHugh moving from full back to inside centre.
It worked for them too, with the home side soon extending their lead.
Spalding broke out of defence with Sharman feeding his winger Harrison, who made space before being bundled into touch.
From the lineout Sharman cleared with a diagonal kick across field just bouncing into touch some 15 metres from the visitors’ try line.
Town then won the lineout and drove for the line, but their reward was a penalty – which West converted to increase his side’s score to 19-11 after 15 minutes of the second half.
Having extended their lead, Spalding made further changes with Williams coming on for Cope, Ian Knight replacing Alex Ioannou and Josh Finch on for Tom Duerden. But they were subjected to a 15-minute period of considerable pressure from the visitors.
Led by the talismanic Sharman, they resisted the onslaught before Newbold kicked a penalty that took the score to 19-14 with less than five minutes left to play.
A final push was now needed by Town, with the away side within striking distance of dashing their dreams. But they were in no mood to surrender their lead and grabbed the try that defined their season late on.
From a scrum, the pack drove for the line with the ball at the base, allowing Williams to crash over for the final score in the closing seconds.
That sparked jubilant scenes after the whistle, as Town toasted their return to the Midlands One East in style.
Spalding RFC: Harry Sharman (captain), Pete Waudby, Wes Cope, Alex Ioannou, Tom Duerden, Andy Hoyles, Ed Duerden, Harry Brown, Rob Lucas, James West, Hamish Munro, Ryan Chappell, George Brown, Harry Harrison, Adam McHugh, Ian Knight, Ben Williams, Josh Finch and Ed Booth.