Spalding’s first-half display took league leaders Dronfield by surprise with a highly disciplined and competitive performance but the intensity fell away in the second period as the hosts took control.
When the team left Spalding early in the morning to travel to Dronfield, the players were wondering if the game would be on.
Luckily the rain stopped late morning in Derbyshire and the match went ahead on a rather boggy pitch.
Fielding a strong looking team, playing uphill in the first half Town were quickly on the back foot as the home team used their forwards to pick and drive followed by the next phase and the pattern of the match was set for the afternoon.
However, Spalding were showing great teamwork, defensive shape and discipline at the breakdown as they competed at every phase and this brought its rewards as the referee awarded penalties in Spalding’s favour.
The first of these penalties was just inside Dronfield’s half and James West stepped up with a superb kick for an early three-point lead.
From the restart Dronfield were able to camp themselves in Town’s half as the forwards did the hard work and within five minutes their fly-half spotted a gap around the fringes of a ruck and went in for an unconverted try.
He followed this up with some astute kicking for territory, pinning Town back at every stage.
Spading were not on the back foot all the time with some strong carries by Jay Harwood and when decent ball was moved to the backs Harry Harrison impressed with his speed and Harry Lane’s handling of the high ball on the left wing was exemplary.
A further penalty given away for holding on by Dronfield at the breakdown gave West the opportunity to successfully kick a further penalty.
But Dronfield’s lead was restored with a pushover try as the Spalding forwards struggled for any grip.
Although Dronfield lost a player to a yellow card, they held on to a six-point half-time lead.
The match was now set up for Spalding to take control with the sloping pitch in their favour and a set of backs to run and create havoc.
However, from the restart kick by Dronfield, Spalding failed to gather in the ball and this seemed to set the tone for the second half as the home team continued to do the basics well through their forwards retaining possession and having the edge over Jordan Templer and Harry Sharman in the lineouts.
A ten-minute spell midway through the second half ended Spalding’s hopes.
Not surprisingly possession was being retained and driven forward by the home team and a pass out to their centre saw him break a couple of weak tackles and was in under the posts.
Next they capitalised at a lineout as Spalding elected not to compete but instead tried to stop the driving maul with little success.
This was followed by a further try under the posts and the game was lost.
Spalding encamped themselves within Dronfield’s 22-metre area for the last five minutes but poor execution and decision making let them down as the strove for the final score.
After an excellent first-half display, Town’s game plan did not work out in the second period as Dronfield continued to do the basics well in difficult conditions under foot.
Spalding: Waudby, Cooke, Cowell, Waltham, Templer, Harwood, Chappell, Sharman, Shields, West, Lane, Williams, Harrison, Douglas, Broome. Subs: Barrett, Caley, Brown.
Spalding are at home to Mansfield on Saturday.