SPALDING RFC 13 ILKESTON 12: TYPICALLY, Town waited until their last attack of the season to dramatically clinch their Midlands One East survival on Saturday.
Kevin Childs’ last-gasp try completed a remarkable victory over an Ilkeston side chasing promotion – and consigned Leighton Buzzard, Coalville and Nuneaton Old Edwardians to the drop.
And with rivals Buzzard and Nuneaton both victorious, Spalding would have been relegated without the late rally.
With the weather appalling on Saturday, Ilkeston made the better start to the Memorial Field mudbath. The opening score arrived on 13 minutes, with a forward breaking away from 15 metres out to go over for a converted try.
It got even worse on 20 minutes, with the visitors running in their second score of the day to make it 12-0.
But Spalding have made a habit of taking big games down to the wire in recent years – and they were far from a beaten side.
After Dave Hankinson found touch with a penalty, Town won the lineout and quickly worked the ball out to winger Childs, who dived over for an unconverted try, making it 5-12 at the break.
The deficit was reduced even more early in the second period, with Hankinson kicking a super 45-yard penalty under enormous pressure.
With the rain hammering down, Spalding continued to push forward in search of survival. Handling was difficult though, with Tom Duerden knocking on from a situation that would normally have seen him score.
Perhaps crucially, Ilkeston then turned down the chance to kick for goal from three different penalties, choosing instead to run down the clock.
It cost them too, as with around a minute left to play Town struck. Hankinson booted another penalty into touch, then launched a big kick upfield after Spalding won the resulting lineout.
The ball bounced erratically but Childs was able to scoop it up cleanly. With one defender to beat, he stepped inside and his strength and determination saw him score the vital try.
Hankinson’s conversion went wide of the posts, but Spalding had already done enough to save themselves.
Town: Harry Sharman (captain), Dan Gibbons, Craig Dowse, Fraser Welsh, Tom Duerden, Ed Duerden, Ash Anker, Harry Brown, Jim Williams, Dave Hankinson, Dan Adams, Ben Williamson, Ryan Chappell, Kevin Childs, Rob Lucas, Peter Shakespeare, Mark Haighton and George Brown.
• Reaction and final table in Thursday’s Spalding Guardian.