SPALDING RFC 19 OLD NORTHAMPTONIANS 38: Spirited Spalding slipped back into the bottom two after being out-gunned by leaders Old Northamptonians at the Memorial Field on Saturday.
Having produced their best performance of the season against Paviors the weekend before, hopes were understandably high ahead of the visit of the table-toppers.
Despite 14 points from the boot of Dave Hankinson and a late try from Craig Dowse, Town failed to secure a losing bonus point and are now some five points from safety after seeing relegation rivals Peterborough and Kettering both pick up points.
Skipper Harry Sharman said: “I think, in the end, they were just a bit too strong. We started well and even had a 6-0 lead, but their superior quality eventually told.
“We put up a good fight though – and played some very good rugby once again.
“What was disappointing was that, at times, our decision making wasn’t the best. We didn’t execute the game plan too well either and they scored from a number of our mistakes.
“But you have to put it into perspective – we were playing the team at the top of the league and it was always going to be tough.
“It’s a strange old league and the results didn’t really go for us on Saturday. I’m still confident that we have a team capable of staying up, although it’s clear that it’ll go right down to the wire again.”
The hosts started well, with Sharman chasing down the visitors fly half behind the try line. A five metre scrum was awarded to Spalding, which they won and a quick heel led to the opposition being ruled off side.
The resultant penalty was converted by Hankinson to make it 3-0 to the hosts – and that soon became 6-0 when Old Northamptonians were penalised for crossing.
However, a quickly-taken penalty opened up Spalding and the visitors raced through to score their first try in the corner.
The conversion was unsuccessful, but another away try (also unconverted) put the league leaders ahead for the first time on 25 minutes.
Old Northamptonians then extended their lead courtesy of a penalty. but Hankinson replied with a kick of his own to make it 9-13 at the break.
Spalding started the second period a man down with Harry Brown handed a yellow card – and the away side made the most of their numerical advantage with a third try from a lineout and subsequent maul. Hankinson attempted to reply immediately, but he was stopped ten metres shy of the line. Typically, Old Northamptonians broke away to score in the corner – and although the conversion attempt failed again, they led 23-9.
Undeterred, Town continued to push forward and were rewarded when the reliable boot of Hankinson added three more points.
But a quick-fire burst of tries from the visitors ended the game as a contest, taking the score to 38-12.
There was still time for one last attack from Spalding, though. Rob Lucas broke clear and passed to Ash Anker, who made ground to within five metres of the line. Town were then awarded a penalty and kicked for touch, with hooker Dowse driving over the line for his first of the season, duly converted by Hankinson.
Spalding RFC: Harry Sharman (captain), Pete Waudby, Craig Dowse, Sam Cooke, Ash Anker, Andy Hoyles, Ed Duerden, Harry Brown, Rob Lucas, Dave Hankinson, Dan Adams, Ryan Chappell, Rhys Thomson, Ben Williamson, Adam McHugh, Ollie Lake, Callum Thomson and Harry Winch.