RUGBY: Town gunning for rivals ahead of crunch clash

KEY MAN: Harry Sharman (centre, left) is back from injury ahead of the Belgrave battle. Photo: TIM WILLIAMS
KEY MAN: Harry Sharman (centre, left) is back from injury ahead of the Belgrave battle. Photo: TIM WILLIAMS
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Spalding RFC have the chance to send a defiant message to their nearest Midlands Two East (North) title rivals on Saturday.

Table-topping Town make the trip to second-placed Belgrave (2.15pm), in what is their first match since their maiden league loss of the campaign back on December 14.

Respected coach Niall Thomson has called for his promotion-chasing charges to shrug off the Ashbourne defeat – and is expecting a big performance in Leicester.

He said: “Losing for the first time is a bit of a double-edged sword.

“On one hand, we wanted to go the entire league season unbeaten – as tough as that may be.

“But on the other, each week that our winning run went on, more pressure built up among the group.

“What we have on Saturday is the chance to send a message to the rest of the league.

“Everyone will be looking out for the result from this game and it’ll send ripples around the division.

“If we lose, they’ll wonder if we’re a spent force. But if we win, they’ll see we mean business.”

Losing their last match 16-13 to Ashbourne at the Memorial Field was something of a shock to the system for Spalding’s talented young team after winning their previous ten.

The club had made no secret of their desire to go unbeaten all season, en route to securing promotion back to Midlands One East.

Thomson put the setback down to mental fatigue – and with that in mind, he gave the players a two-week break over the festive period.

He added: “Going an entire season unbeaten was always a tall order at this level.

“The major disappointment for me was the lack of intelligence we showed in that game, against what was a fairly limited attack.

“I think the lads were tired, both mentally and physically. When you lose that extra two per cent in your head, there’s very little we as coaches can do other then let them rest.

“Belgrave is a big game to come back to, but I’m as confident about the team as I ever have been. If we go there and play to our potential, I expect us to come back with a win.”

Spalding’s chances have been given a major boost by the return of skipper Harry Sharman, who has shaken off a knee injury. But prop Ian Knight is unavailable and Ash Piccaver won’t be involved.