RUGBY UNION: Spalding lose out by tight margin
The number of successful conversions was the only thing to split Spalding and Newark in Saturday's NLD Cup quarter-final.
Newark have had a similar start to Spalding in their league campaign but are one league higher so it was going to be an interesting test for Spalding’s progress over the last couple of months, if they harbour league promotion ambitions.
Making a welcome return to Spalding was Sam Forrest on the right wing and, although missing five or six regular players through injury, the team none the less looked strong on paper, especially the forwards pack.
Within the opening period, Newark soon settled into a familiar style of play using their forwards to control matters, retaining possession with play being in Spalding’s half and they soon drew a penalty at the breakdown, but the long range kick was short.
Spalding were easing themselves into the game led by Harry Sharman, John Barrett and Luke Turner, taking their forward play to the visitors with forceful carries and a ruck was established approximately ten metres from the posts.
Having drawn Newark’s defence in, scrum-half Ben Shields passed wide to his backs and an overlap was created for debutant winger Forrest to open the scoring.
Newark responded shortly afterwards with a converted try, but Spalding now had the measure of the visitors' play, with the scrums going with the put in and edging the breakdown area. It was Spalding’s backs who shone, with Adam McHugh on his return crashing through a couple of attempted tackles at pace and was for his try converted by Ingleby.
Disappointingly, Spalding did not deal with the restart giving away territory immediately to Newark. From a lineout, their forwards made inroads into Spalding’s defence for their second converted try and a two-point lead after half an hour.
When they had decent possession, Spalding’s backs were causing problems for Newark and it was left winger Gav Sharman who rounded the wide defence and with the conversion Spalding had re-established their early lead.
Just before half-time, the rain started to fall heavily, but this did not stop Luke Turner crashing over for Spalding’s fourth try and a ten-point lead.
From the restart, Newark stepped up their intensity with their forwards edging the battle and prop Josh Caley was trapped and spotted not rolling away at a ruck and received a yellow card. With a one-man advantage in the scrum, Newark immediately capitalised, driving Spalding backwards for a converted try. But remained five points adrift
Around the 60-minute mark, the visitors took control of the match orchestrated by their fly half Matt Cox. From a scrum, the ball was passed out quickly, he cut back inside and with his strong running he broke the first tackle and was in under the posts.
Next, his strong running set up the platform for his forwards to carry over and with a two-minute spell, Spalding had gone from a five-point lead to a nine-point deficit.
With 20 minutes remaining, there was time for Spalding to come back into the game and using the forwards and Ash Piccaver and Ash Anker in particular with their strong carries, they established themselves deep into Newark’s twenty two and as pressure mounted, Newark conceded a penalty try and their lead was down to two points with 12 minutes of play remaining. Now, just one further score by Spalding would do.
However, as hard as Spalding tried, Newark rode out the remaining minutes.With both teams scoring five tries apiece, the game was decided by the number of successful kicks and with three successful conversions to Spalding’s two, the visitors were into the NLD Cup semi-finals.