Huntingdon & District 16
Spalding RFC 12
Spalding RFC were left to rue missed opportunities as they kicked off 2020 with a 16-12 defeat at Huntingdon on Saturday.
Town won the reverse game earlier in the season, but travelling has often been their Achilles heel in Midlands Three East (South) – and so it proved again.
From the kick-off, Spalding looked the better outfit with their forwards dominating the breakdown and making inroads with their carries.
Connor Lilburn, back from injury, showed up well and Harry Cole was prominent with his strength and pace.
Huntingdon steadied their ship and, with good box kicks from their scrum-half, gained territory as the Elephants started to come under pressure.
As a result, a number of penalties started to be conceded. Pulling down in the lineout resulted in a successful penalty kick and ten minutes later not releasing a tackled player brought another successful penalty kick, giving the home team a six-point lead.
Spalding were making too many wrong decisions in their play, leading to either the ball being turned over or poor passing, handing possession over to their hosts.
However, in the lineout Jordan Templer was performing well and Harry Sharman was proving to be a handful, with strong carries and his vision.
The scrums were fairly even between the two teams, with Luke Turner and John Barrett in the front row proving a bit of a handful for the opposition.
With the ground wet under foot in areas (the pitch had recently been under water) it was proving difficult conditions for centres Dan Adams and George Brown to make an impact with their running game and both wingers were hardly seeing the ball.
But, with half time drawing near, Town worked their way upfield and Ash Anker forced his way over the line to bring Spalding to within one point of the home side.
The hosts stretched their lead within a couple of minutes of the second half though, as a high up and under was missed by Sharman and Callum Lewis, with neither calling for the ball.
That allowed the home team’s right winger to gather the ball and run unopposed behind the posts for a converted try.
By now, flanker Reece Calaby was really stepping up into the game, with his tackling and speed to the breakdown.
Captain Adams made a good break through the middle, being hauled down ten metres from the try line, while the fresh legs of Mattie Holmes replaced Lewis on the wing.
Calaby again showed his speed, slicing through Huntingdon’s forwards before offloading to fly-half Willis Ingleby, who outpaced the covering defence and ran in under the posts, with Conall Mason converting.
With a single point between the teams, Spalding had 30 minutes remaining to win the game as they continued to press forward, with much of the play concentrated within the forwards.
On a rare excursion into Town’s 22 metres, another penalty given away for a high tackle saw the hosts successful with the penalty kick.
A few minutes later, Jordan Templer was yellow carded for a second time at the breakdown – but Spalding still pressed forward and on a number of occasions were encamped on Huntingdon’s five-metre line.
But they ultimately came away with nothing, as the home team defended determinately.
At the final whistle, Huntingdon were delighted to have come through Spalding’s pressure.
However, Town were left to lament the lack of a clinical attitude at key periods in the match.
The loss leaves them seventh in the table ahead of this Saturday’s home clash with lowly Northampton BBOB (2.15pm).
Spalding RFC: Harry Cole, John Barrett, Luke Turner, Jordan Templer, Connor Lilburn, Ash Anker, Reece Calaby, Harry Sharman, Ben Shields, Willis Ingleby Ed Booth, Dan Adams, George Brown, Callum Lewis, Conall Mason. Subs: Matt Heaton, Will Cole and Mattie Holmes.