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Spalding Rugby Club are defeated by Dunstablians in their first match of the Midlands 3 East (South) campaign

Spalding suffered an opening day defeat in their Midlands 3 East (South) campaign as a late onslaught fired Dunstablians to victory on Saturday.

The Elephants were highly competitive for an hour of the contest but the Dunstablians ran and spread the ball late on to stretch the Spalding side.

The final scoreline might suggest that they were well beaten, however, Spalding were encamped in the Dunstablians half for the opening 20 minutes.

Spalding lost their league opener at Dunstablians on Saturday. (51627429)
Spalding lost their league opener at Dunstablians on Saturday. (51627429)

They stifled any possession that the home team could muster with their pack of forwards led by captain Luke Turner carrying and retaining possession going through multiple phases.

Ash Anker, playing hooker, and lock Connor Liliburn were also standing out with their energy and commitment while flanker Will Shields was using his speed to the breakdown to excellent effect.

Marshalling the forwards was scrum half Adam Sutcliffe who was highly effective throughout.

But, with their first visit inside Spalding’s half after 23 minutes, Dunstablians launched a move out wide on the right wing and with a couple of missed tackles they were under the posts for a converted try.

Shortly afterwards lock Macaulay Crane was replaced by Miguel Da Silva having strained a shoulder.

Both teams seemed fairly evenly matched as Spalding’s line-out was working well with Will Shields jumping at the front while in the scrums Dunstablians were steadily gaining an advantage and putting Harry Brown, playing number eight, under pressure when going for a quick pick up and carry.

With half-time approaching, a penalty kick was awarded to Spalding and with a successful attempt by fly half Conall Mason, there was all to play for in the second half.

Indeed Spalding again started the half well with flanker Harry Cole using his speed and strength to punch holes in the Dunstablians defence.

Another infringement at the breakdown by the home team saw Mason kick a further penalty leaving Spalding just one point behind.

Spalding lost their league opener at Dunstablians on Saturday. (51627410)
Spalding lost their league opener at Dunstablians on Saturday. (51627410)

However, the next few minutes found Spalding in disarray.

From the restart Dunstablians' lock caught the high ball and burst through any Spalding defence and ran under the posts for a converted try.

Within a couple of minutes, Dunstablians' fly half on the halfway line kicked deep behind Spalding's left wing Callum Lewis who turned to chase back.

The ball reached the in-goal area and Lewis was outpaced to the touchdown by his opposite number and suddenly Spalding were adrift by 13 points.

Spalding rallied and went hunting for a score and at a ruck centre Taylor Crowson was over the ball but was cleared out, twisted and landed on his neck.

After attention, he walked off the pitch to be replaced by Mattie Holmes who went onto the wing with Lewis moving to centre.

But, before they had time to properly organise themselves, Dunstablians' fly half found his left winger with a good crossfield kick and with a clear run in for a further home try.

Spalding were now unsettled and matters were not helped when Cole was yellow-carded, but Dunstablians also lost a man to a red card and Ed Williams came off the bench to replace Brown.

Dunstablians were now looking far more fluent than Spalding, having the confidence to pass, run and support, but the visitors again battled back through the forwards and turned possession into points with Turner driving over the line with seven minutes to play.

Spalding lost their league opener at Dunstablians on Saturday. (51627415)
Spalding lost their league opener at Dunstablians on Saturday. (51627415)

However, it was Dunstablians who were now on top by spreading the ball along their back line orchestrated by their fly half.

With pace and support play, they were again down their right wing and a pass over the top cut out two defenders as the home supporters were cheering another try.

With full time nearly up, Dunstablians were again breaking down the wing and a sleek pass inside to the supporting runner saw the final converted try.

The last 20 minutes were really the downfall for Spalding in this match as they lost control of the forward engagements and Dunstablians, gaining in confidence, started to use the pace of their backs to bring rewards.

Spalding: Tom Parker, Ash Anker, Luke Turner, Macaulay Crane, Connor Liliburn, Harry Cole, Will Shields, Harry Brown, Adam Sutcliffe, Conall Mason, Callum Lewis, Taylor Crowson, Gav Sharman, Ben shields, George Douglas. Subs Miguel Da silva, Mattie Holmes, Ed Williams.

Spalding will now turn their attentions to their first home match of the season this weekend when they host Huntingdon.

The Stags were 25-10 winners over Rushden & Higham on Saturday while Bourne made a winning start with a 17-13 home victory over Stockwood Park.

Deepings were defeated 52-20 in their first match of the Midlands 4 East (South) season against St Neots.

Their visitors produced a superb first half performance and scored 40 points without reply before adding another two tries early in the second period.

With a 52-0 advantage, the Saints then took their foot off the gas and Deepings scored four tries late on.

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