Midlands One East: Spalding 7 Syston 48
Spalding remain rooted to the bottom of the Midlands One East table after their 12th successive defeat - despite leading until the stroke of half-time.
They welcomed second-placed Syston from Leicester on Saturday having last played them four seasons ago.
Alex Ioannou returned to the front row, young colt Kieran Bailey started at lock and Ben Williams was back from illness, starting at the base of the scrum at number eight.
After last week’s impressive debut at fly-half Jos Broome was an automatic pick but out in the three-quarters, with George Brown unavailable with a hamstring injury, Sam Cooke was selected in the unfamiliar position of outside centre, although he did have the experienced Ryan Chappell, at inside centre, and Rob Lucas at fullback to assist.
Spalding started on a positive note with the scrum looking very settled and the lads were up to the challenge posed by Syston but an infringement at the breakdown presented Syston with a penalty in front of goal for an early lead.
From the early play it was difficult to work out who was challenging at the top of the league and who was bottom as Spalding were playing some of their best rugby of the season.
It was Syston’s turn to infringe and Spalding handed the ball to Broome for a kick to touch for a lineout. With Williams having the responsibility of throwing in he found Tom Deurden, who was going to dominate the lineout throughout the match, and a driving maul was established but was foiled by some stout defence by the visitors.
Spalding were remaining in Syston’s territory and from a ruck the ball found its way out to Will Moore on the right wing who beat the initial defence and sprinted over in the corner for his first try in the first team. From the touchline Broome’s conversion kick sailed between the posts for Spalding to take the lead at seven points to three.
With half-time approaching Spalding were still in the lead. The scrum was looking secure, the lineout was working well with Tim Waltham and Liam Richardson also securing good lineout ball and Williams and Ioannou were showing excellent leadership that had been missing the last couple of weeks supporting captain Chappell.
However just before half-time the Syston forwards grabbed hold of the match with first their prop and secondly their blindside flanker smashing through tackles to score a couple of tries both converted by the visitors flyhalf to take a half-time lead of 17-7.
With resumption of play it became immediately apparent that Syston had changed their tactics, with them having had little success taking on the Spalding forwards, the ball was immediately being passed out to their threequaters.
It was not long before Syston’s left-winger was showing his pace and exposed some inexperience in Spalding’s defence and with 10 minutes into the second half he was in for a try in the corner. Ten minutes later he was over again for a converted try.
Ten minutes later he was again outpacing the Spalding defence and not satisfied with a hat-trick of tries he again showed his blistering pace with his fourth try.
During the second half Spalding had periods of domination, as in the first half, and on several occasions they were encamped on the Syston try line especially in the last five minutes. Stout last-minute defending by Syston and some inexperience by Spalding in not being patient and going through their phases of play resulted in turnover ball, which could have been retained.
However Spalding’s display and desire could not be faulted and for much of the game these two teams were evenly matched apart from the outstanding performance by the Syston left winger who took the match away from the home team.
Duerden was Spalding’s man of the match who just pipped Tim Waltham.
During the last month Ioannou has been away on international rugby duties with his home country of Cyprus. He played in their away match against Latvia and their home match against Andorra.
Also watching this match was the captain of the Indian international team Gautam Gagar. Under his captaincy India are leaders of the Asian Five Nations Division Three.
Spalding: Ioannou, Caley, Hutson, Deurden, Bailey, Waltham, Richardson, Williams, Shields, Broome, Browne, Cooke, Chappell (captain), Moore, Lucas, Osborne.