OAKHAM 13 SPALDING RFC 18: Relentless Spalding laid down a real marker in Midlands Two East (North) on Saturday by winning in their chief title rivals’ own back yard.
James West (picture below) scored all 18 points for Town to make it nine wins from as many matches and extend their lead at the top of the table to a healthy eight points.
Second at the start of play, hosts Oakham led 13-9 at half time in the crunch clash – and certainly gave Spalding the toughest test they’ve had in the league so far this term.
The crucial victory came at a cost for Town, though. Both skipper Harry Sharman (knee) and full-back Ed Booth (ankle) were forced off with injuries that could rule them out of the run up to Christmas.
Billed as a “season-defining game” by Spalding coach Niall Thomson pre-match, his side made a fine start after kicking off into a slight wind.
Tom Duerden, returning after injury, burst through the defence and was stopped by an offside Oakham defender.
That allowed West to sweetly strike the penalty through the posts to open the scoring after only three minutes. It didn’t take long for Oakham to hit back though, as they went ahead four minutes later.
Spalding knocked on close to their own 22 metre line and Oakham won the scrum.
The ball was quickly fed out to their right wing, who caught the Town defence out of position and scored close to the corner flag. The conversion put the home side 7–3 up.
That advantage grew bigger on the 20 minute mark when a penalty added three more points to the Oakham tally.
Spalding responded in kind, with West burying his second penalty of the afternoon from just ten metres out soon after.
Now very much on top, Town enjoyed a good period of pressure. But all they had to show for it was three more points from that man West.
However, as half-time approached another Oakham penalty put the hosts 13-9 ahead at the interval.
Within minutes of the restart Spalding went on the attack and won a penalty following a crunching tackle on Booth, which ended his afternoon. Still, West obliged to pull Town within a point.
More of the same followed, with skipper Sharman the next to be taken out by a foul.
He also left the pitch injured, but moments later West coolly sent another kick sailing through the posts to put Town ahead at 15-13.
Oakham missed a penalty in the final 15 minutes as the game hung in the balance, but West – fittingly – had the last word two minutes from time when he nailed his sixth penalty to seal an 18-13 success.
Spalding RFC: Harry Sharman, Ian Knight, Jacob Harwood, Rob Mason, Andy Hoyles, Tom Duerden, Josh Finch, Ed Duerden, Rob Lucas, James West, Harry Harrison, Ryan Chappell, George Brown, Matty Newman, Ed Booth, Josh Caley, Ash Piccaver and Jason Steels.
• Saturday: Town v Stamford (2pm).