KETTERING RFC 1st 29 SPALDING RFC 1st 25: MUCH-IMPROVED Town are still without a Midlands One East away win this season – but they pushed high-flying Kettering all the way on Saturday.
After two dismal performances on the spin, the return of three of Spalding’s RAF players made a massive difference.
Town started the better and were awarded a penalty in front of the posts on six minutes.
Dave Hankinson, playing his first match for four weeks, made no mistake and struck the ball sweetly between the uprights to give the visitors an early three point lead.
Kettering sent a kick of their own wide of the posts soon after, but a quick and decisive move from the Kettering three-quarters saw the ball go wide for the winger, who scored near the corner. The conversion went wide.
Much of the next ten minutes was spent in the middle of the pitch, before a successful Kettering penalty made it 8-3 to the hosts at the half- hour mark.
Despite the scoreline, Spalding were starting to hold their own in the scrum and frequently won the ball in open play, but were often thwarted by the opposition.
But as half time approached it was Kettering who were next to score. They won a lineout and a good series of passing resulted in their three-quarters out pacing the visitors – and with the conversion to follow, the home side went into half time with a 15-3 advantage.
There was drama at the interval though, with referee Paul Regan unable to continue. The only person qualified at the ground to replace him was Spalding’s Peter Jullien, who stepped in to save the game from being abandoned.
His first major call was to award Spalding a penalty, which Hankinson converted against the wind.
Buoyed by their strong opening to the second period, Town then ran in their first try. A scrum in Kettering half allowed the away side to take possession of the ball through Ed Duerden.
His strong run took him to within a metre of the line before being held up. But debutante Richie Craig was on hand to reach for the line and score.
Hankinson’s conversion went wide, but Spalding were now just 15-11 down.
However, Kettering then charged down a clearing kick from near the Spalding try line and were able to touchdown, leaving a simple conversion to stretch the score to 22-11.
Town weren’t done, though. They were awarded a penalty and they kicked for touch, with the resultant lineout won by Mark Haighton, allowing skipper Harry Sharman to break with the ball.
He offloaded to second row forward Josh McNally, who stormed through three tackles to touch down just right of the posts, leaving a simple conversion for Hankinson.
Town thought they’d hit the front when another break by Ed Duerden put McNally clear for his second score, but the pass was adjudged to be forward.
Clearly stunned by the fight shown by their visitors, Kettering then struck the decisive blow in the last ten minutes of the contest.
A deep wind assisted clearing kick took the ball into touch on the Spalding five metre line, with home side’s forwards crossing the try line from the resulting lineout.
The successful conversion made it 29-18 in Kettering’s favour, but Town weren’t about to give up.
The ball came back to the number eight Phil Taylor, who broke from the base of the scrum and forced his way over the line to score just to the right of the posts. Hankinson duly obliged and the ball went through the uprights, bringing the score back to 29–25 with only four minutes remaining.
Although they failed to pull off a stunning win in a frantic final five minutes, Spalding headed back to the Memorial Field with their heads held high.