JUNIOR RUGBY: Fixture frustration fuels rusty display

Spalding RFC under-13s before their final.
Spalding RFC under-13s before their final.
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SPALDING RFC U/13s 10 MELBOURNE U/13s 31: WELL-DRILLED Melbourne lifted the NLD Trophy at the expense of a below-par Spalding, who fell at the final hurdle.

The fact that Town’s young guns had only been able to complete four full matches since the start of the year – and none at all since the middle of March – contributed to a rusty performance against a team that were obviously at the top of their game.

Spalding more than held their own in the first half and were unlucky to be trailing at half time.

An early unconverted try from Melbourne, which came after a quick penalty and good interplay, was followed by a period when Spalding’s forwards looked like taking control of the game.

A series of driving mauls took play from half way to deep into the Melbourne 22. However, just as a score seemed likely, basic errors allowed Melbourne to mount a concerted counter-attack which was eventually stopped just short of the Spalding line.

From the resulting scrum, Town’s opponents moved the ball right and were awarded a try, even though there was a suspicion that the ball had been lost forward in the act of grounding. To rub salt into their wounds, the conversion was successful.

Undeterred, Spalding’s forwards again started to gain the upper hand and Alex Worth was unlucky not to be awarded a try when it appeared that he had grounded the ball on the line.

He was able to force his way over from the resulting scrum for an unconverted try though, bringing making it 12-5 in Melbourne’s favour at the interval.

Disaster struck in the first minute of the second half when on-song Spalding ace Mark Hendry suffered a nasty head wound in a ruck and required hospital treatment. Hendry had been playing one of his best games of the season and was a constant threat.

From the restart, Melbourne mounted a concerted attack, which was initially thwarted. However, after a number of missed tackles and a bit of ball watching they were able to score near the posts for another converted try.

Gutsy Spalding rallied and were once again threatening to score when a loose pass allowed the Melbourne wing to race the length of the field to score another converted try, which proved a killer blow.

Town’s lads refused to cave in, with the forwards again leading the charge. There were stand-out performances from Worth and Harry Wilkinson-Roberts – and once again they secured an attacking position in the Melbourne 22.

This time Corey Lewis was able to break clear and score near the posts, although the hastily-taken conversion was missed.

With Worth forced to leave the field with a leg injury and a number of other forwards carrying knocks, Melbourne were able to mount one final attack and score an unconverted try to close out the match.

It was a disappointing end to what has been a rather frustrating season for Spalding, when a number of factors conspired against them even getting a game at times.