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Spalding Rugby Club are beaten by Rushden & Higham in Midlands 3 East (South)

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Spalding were unable to put a dent in Rushden and Higham’s unbeaten home record despite a battling display in Saturday’s Midlands 3 East (South) clash.

The Elephants had called up several players from the second team to boost their squad against a home side who were looking to consolidate their position in the top half of the table.

From the kick-off, Rushden had the early advantage as Spalding settled under the captaincy of George Brown for the third match in a row, this week featuring at hooker, with Luke Turner still sidelined with injury.

Alongside Brown in the front row were second team captain Richard Stevenson and Kev Hudson, who was making his return after a couple of years absence.

After five minutes of play, Spalding stunned the home crowd as they worked their way upfield using Ash Anker and Connor Lilburn as ball carriers to establish a position five metres from the try line, where from a ruck Hudson drove over.

Fly-half Conall Mason had a simple conversion to give Spalding a lead of seven points.

The visitors were trying to exercise their game-plan of keeping the ball in the forwards to establish a platform for scrum half Ben Shields to zip out a pass to the backs, with George Douglas and Gav Sharman forming a new partnership.

But Rushden could not be subdued for long as their powerful running flanker broke through for the home team’s opening try.

Spalding’s scrum was holding up well and the line-out was also working effectively, with Lilburn and especially Alan Charevicius securing good ball.

However, Rushden were getting on top and in a devastating spell, using a combination of their back row and their backs, five tries were run in for the home team to have a comfortable 29-7 lead by half-time.

The start of the second half saw Spalding controlling the ball through their forwards, with Ed Williams and George Brown prominent with some big carries.

From a position on the halfway line, Anker broke clear, drew a defender and released Ben Shields to run in from 30 metres.

Could Spalding make a comeback?

The answer from Rushden was fairly swift as Spalding failed to clear their lines from a defensive line-out and, with a kick charged down, hopes of turning around the scoreline evaporated.

The game became fairly open, with Spalding competing well but rarely being able to release their backs or wingers into space, while Rushden’s left winger helped himself to two further tries before the final whistle blew.

The defeat leaves Spalding in ninth place in the table, ahead of Saturday’s tough trip to league leaders Stockwood Park.

The Bedfordshire side are currently a point clear of second-placed Bourne, who were 47-21 winners at Northampton Mens Own on Saturday.

Deepings went down to a 7-69 home defeat against Midlands 4 East (South) leaders Biggleswade on Saturday.

Spalding: Richard Stevenson, George Brown, Kev Hudson, Connor Lilburn, Macauley Crane, Alan Charevicius, Edward Williams, Ash Anker, Ben Shields, Conall Mason, Fabian Simpson, George Douglas, Gav Sharman, Callum Lewis, James Luto. Subs: Rob Lucas, Lewis Adams, William Pite.

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