SPALDING RFC 19 BEDFORD ATHLETIC 25: The fact Spalding were left disappointed not to have won on Saturday shows just how far they’ve come in a very short time this season.
Having lost 99-7 to Bedford back in September, they took their high flying visitors right to the wire at the Memorial Field – and even took the lead at one stage – before finally seeing their three-game winning streak shattered late on.
A bonus point in defeat was some consolation for Town, although Peterborough’s win over Market Rasen and Louth sends them back into the bottom three.
Although clearly disappointed, Spalding skipper Harry Sharman paid tribute to his side’s efforts. He said: “It was gutting not to win, but an outstanding team effort.
“Our defence was awesome and we showed great character to push for a win. A losing bonus point against Bedford is still a great result for us.
“I’d like to thank the home support of around 300, they really inspired us.”
The large crowd won’t have gone home disappointed despite the result, with Spalding’s young side delivering a rousing display. They started superbly, with their three-quarters making space in front of the posts before being stopped.
Bedford were called offside – and Dave Hankinson kicked the hosts into an early 3-0 lead.
Athletic roared back though and took play deep into the Spalding 22 metre area and won a penalty. Opting not to kick, they scored a try (unconverted) in the corner to take a 5-3 lead.
It wasn’t long before Bedford were awarded another penalty. This time they kicked for touch and won the lineout. The ball was then moved swiftly to their left wing, who cut inside to score 15 metres in from touch. Again the conversion missed, leaving Spalding 10-3 down.
The visitors kept the pressure on their opponents and won another penalty in the middle of the field, some 40 metres from the posts. On this occasion their kicker was successful – and Bedford held their 13-3 advantage up until half time.
Town looked a much more determined outfit in the second period and it wasn’t long before they turned the game around.
After winning two quick-fire lineouts, Spalding swiftly passed the ball back along the line until eventually hooker Ollie Lake squeezed in at the corner. The conversion missed, but it was now game on at 13-8.
It wasn’t all about attacking play though, with the home defence standing tall against a sustained period of attacking, with Harry Harrison in particular very impressive.
Hankinson then buried a 30-metre penalty to further reduce Town’s deficit to 13-11, before he booted another three points to put the hosts into a shock lead.
Bedford swiftly went back ahead with a converted try after charging down a defensive clearance, but Spalding weren’t finished yet. A penalty took them to within 15 metres of the line. They then won the lineout and drove forward, with Sharman eventually going over.
The boot of Hankinson made it 20-19 to set up a grandstand finish, but a late Athletic try killed off the home revival.
Town: Harry Sharman (captain), Pete Waudby, Jimmy Rowlands, Sam Cooke, Mark Haighton, Tom Duerden, Harry Brown, Ed Duerden, Rob Lucas, Dave Hankinson, Kev Childs, Ryan Chappell, Harry Harrison, Ben Williamson, Adam McHugh, Ollie Lake, Ben Williams and Ash Anker.
• Saturday: Matlock v Spalding RFC (2.15pm).