Spalding Rugby Club are beaten by Rushden & Higham
Spalding suffered their heaviest defeat of the Midlands 3 East (South) campaign after a 14-56 home reversal against Rushden & Higham on Saturday.
Town had tumbled to a 48-12 loss in the reverse fixture in November and Saturday’s showing was not up to their usual standard as they were unable to gain revenge against an in-form Rushden side.
The visitors had arrived on a high having beaten runaway league leaders Stockwood Park at home the previous weekend.
And they showed loads of confidence to play running rugby which unusually opened up the Spalding defence on a number of occasions.
The hosts took to the field at the Memorial Ground with two up-and-coming colts players - Will Stevenson and Harvey King - making their first starts in a home league match.
With Ben Shields slotting into the scrum half position as Adam Sutcliffe was unavailable and young James Luto on the wing, Spalding fielded a team with youthful promise.
There was still experience in the pack of captain Pete Waudby, Ash Ankar, Tom Parker and Sam Noble playing number eight rather than lock to lead and guide.
From the kick-off, Rushden were straight away on the front foot using their forwards effectively with carries punching holes in Spalding’s defence before they had time to settle into the match and within five minutes they were over for their first converted try.
Steadily Spalding edged themselves back into the game as their forwards came to the fore with Anker, Miguel Da Silva and Jordan Templer gaining territory.
From a solid scrum, Ben Shields passed to fly half Conal Mason and the ball moved to centre Gav Sharman who stole through a gap in Rushden’s defence and was tackled inches short of the try line.
Spalding secured the ball and right wing Luto went over the try line and, with Mason converting, the match was level after 17 minutes.
Unfortunately Sharman had sustained a knock in the tackle and was out injured for the remaining 60 minutes of the game.
Rushden reacted almost immediately, using the pace of their backs with their flanker finding a hole in Spalding’s defence and was over near the posts for an easy conversion.
Spalding were coming under sustained pressure, testing their defence, and it was the visitors’ right winger who had an overlap to speed in.
This was quickly followed by Rushden’s forwards finding no guard defence at a breakdown for a further try under the posts.
Ben Shields sustained a cut to his head and was temporarily replaced by Matt Heaton, making a welcome return to rugby as he slotted in at flanker with Will Shields reverting to scrum half.
Spalding played out the remaining 10 minutes of the first half holding their own but were 21 points adrift at the half-time whistle.
On the restart, Ben Shields was restored to scrum half and Will Shields resumed his role as flanker and line-out jumper.
However, as hard as Spalding tried to get into the match, Rushden always seemed to have an extra gear especially in the backs and it was their full-back who cut through the home side’s defence at pace for the visitors’ next converted try.
Again it was their backs being allowed space by Spalding’s defensive line which provided their right winger the opportunity to cut back inside for a further converted try.
Spalding did have moments in the second half but several opportunities were wasted by poor execution.
However, it was the ever-reliable Anker who drove over as Spalding were camped on Rushden’s try line.
Rushden were not finished though as Spalding’s defence was tiring and in the last ten minutes two further tries were conceded.
Spalding will now need to step up their performance for this coming weekend as they travel down to league leaders Stockwood Park.
Spalding: Peter Waudby, Miguel Da Silva, Tom Parker, Jordan Templer, Ash Ankar, Will Stevenson, Will Shields, Sam Noble, Ben Shields, Conall Mason, James Luto, Harvey King, Gav Sharman, Callum Lewis, George Douglas. Subs: Matt Heaton, Dan Adams.