SPALDING RFC 27 OAKHAM RFC 27: A last-gasp James West penalty rescued a draw for Spalding RFC on Saturday – but they still lost vital ground on league leaders Belgrave.
Having led 14-0 at one stage, second-placed Town will see this as an opportunity missed despite their late reprieve at the Memorial Field.
And to make matters worse, Midlands Two East (North) table-toppers Belgrave thrashed Melbourne 49-0 to go eight points clear.
In what was a battle between two of the top three on Saturday, hosts Spalding made the perfect start.
Richie Craig took play to within 20 metres of the Oakham try line, before Town won the lineout and spread the ball wide to the right wing.
The ball came back inside where Wes Cope received the pass and used his strength to score from 20 metres out, with West adding the conversion.
Town were awarded a penalty and kicked for touch some five metres from the try line.
They won the lineout and drove for the line – but the defiant visitors defence held them up and forced play into touch 10 metres out.
Spalding again won the lineout and the ball went along the line to winger Harry Harrison, who used his considerable speed to outpace the opposition and score. West converted.
Oakham then opened their account with a penalty, but relentless Town further added to their tally when Andy Lal passed inside for George Brown to crash over. West failed with the conversion, but the hosts moved a healthy 19-3 ahead after 35 minutes.
Another away penalty reduced the score to 19-6 at the break – but Oakham proved a different prospect in the second period.
Within three minutes of the start of the second half they registered their first try.
Having gained possession, the away side spread the ball wide for their winger to touch down, before a conversion made the score 19 -13.
Within the next ten minutes Oakham were gaining in confidence, just as Spalding’s faith was disappearing. Town reacted and made changes with Rob Lucas moving to full-back in place of Ed Booth and Ben Williams taking over the scrum half role.
But it did not influence the Oakham side and they were next to score a converted the try to move 20-19 ahead.
Spalding responded and worked the play into their opponents half. They won a lineout and all of the forwards drove for the line, with Cope going over for his second try deep in the corner.
The conversion went wide, but the score moved on to 24-20 in Town’s favour with 15 minutes left to play.
However, Oakham hit back when they broke through the Spalding defence to score wide of the posts, with their kicker on-target again to take put his side 27-24 ahead with just minutes left to play.
Town quickly re-started and were soon in the opposition 22 metre area. Oakham infringed and Spalding were awarded a penalty.
West made no mistake and converted to level the scores, after which the referee blew his whistle for the final time.
Spalding’s next league match is another derby at local rivals Stamford on March 22, with rivals Belgrave at Melton Mowbray the same day.
Spalding RFC: Harry Sharman (captain), Pete Waudby, Wes Copley, Alex Ioannou, Andy Hoyles, Ed Duerden, Richie Craig, Harry Brown, Rob Lucas, James West, Andy Lal, George Brown, Ryan Chappell, Harry Harrison, Ed Booth, Sam Cooke, Tim Waltham and Ben Williams.