TOUCHING DOWN: Town score one of their tries on Saturday. Photo by ADRIAN SMITH

Thrilling finish sees Spalding RFC roar back to secure draw with Ashfield

Spalding RFC 31
Ashfield RFC 31

A remarkable haul of 17 points in the final eight minutes earned Spalding RFC a thrilling 31-31 draw with Ashfield on Saturday.

The rare draw, in what was Town’s final home game of the Midlands Three East (North) season at the Memorial Field, keeps them in contention for a top three finish.

Second-placed Ashfield needed just one bonus point to secure their promotion play-off place, but the Elephants boast one of the league’s best home records and were in no mood to disappoint.

With a large and expectant crowd around the pitch, Ashfield kicked off and Spalding secured the high ball safely. Scrum-half Will Shields nipped the ball out to fly-half

Willis Ingleby and the ball moved on swiftly to winger Ben Shields, who cut back inside to find Conall Mason supporting.

He had a clear run to score and with his successful conversion, Spalding were 7-0 up within the opening minute.

Encouraged, Town looked to press home their advantage, but Ashfield started to settle down and show that they were a well-drilled team and quick to the breakdown, with two good running centres.

Competition between the two teams was intense and it looked as if left winger, Gav Sharman, had rounded Ashfield’s defence to score in the corner – but his foot was in touch.

Shortly afterwards the visitors worked their way deep into Spalding’s 22 and they scored under the posts to draw level.

The game was being played at fierce pace all over the park. Town’s forwards Jason Steels and Ash Anker were looking for gaps to break through and steadily the hosts were building up a head of steam as half-time approached, with Ashfield tackling and defending well.

But, just before the whistle, a Spalding move broke down, handing the ball to Ashfield’s inside centre. He sprinted from his own 22 to score under the posts, completely against the run of play.

Harry Brown came off the subs bench to replace Anker, but within a couple of minutes of the second half Spalding’s defensive play at a ruck was poor, lacking commitment, and Ashfield’s outside centre sailed through unchallenged.

The Elephants responded through their forwards. Ash Piccaver was starting to make some force full breaks and Harry Sharman was using his wily experience.

A couple of penalties were awarded against the visitors at the breakdown as Spalding started to impose themselves and Ryan Chappell took a pass at pace and crashed over for a converted try.

Ashfield again benefited from some missed tackles by Town and looked to have secured victory when their excellent outside centre helped himself to his second try, securing the one bonus point they required.

Their forwards then went over to leave Spalding 31-14 down with 20 minutes left.

Minutes were ticking away, as Town, now dominant in the scrum, looked to get something out of the game.

Tom Wilson replaced centre George Brown and, with eight minutes remaining, Ingleby made a good break. The ball found Ben Shields out on the right wing and he cut back inside the defender for a converted try.

With three minutes remaining the Elephants were streaming forward, opening up gaps in Ashfield’s defence.

Captain Dan Adams made a decisive break through the middle, eating up the yards before the ball was moved quickly to the left and Gav Sharman rounded his defender to score.

Then, with one minute remaining on the clock, Ashfield restarted with a high long kick. The ball secured, Harry Sharman fed the ball to his forwards and Harry Cole and

John Barrett made inroads. Piccaver joined in and soon Spalding were on Ashfield’s five metre line.

A series of rucks ensued, with the visitors defending gallantly before Piccaver finally forced his way over to level the scores.

A difficult conversion missed the posts, but Spalding had scored 17 remarkable points late on to draw a thrilling and pulsating match.

They now complete their season at Bakewell Mannerians on Saturday (3pm), knowing that they must out-perform Belper if they are to pip them to third place.

Spalding RFC: Harry Cole, John Barrett, Kev Hudson, Ash Ankar, Ash Piccaver, Ryan Chappell, Jason Steels, Harry Sharman, Will Shields, Willis Ingleby, Gav Sharman, George Brown, Dan Adams, Ben Shields, Conall Mason. Subs used: Jacob Greaves, Harry Brown, Tom Wilson.

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