MIDLANDS THREE EAST (NORTH): Spalding 20 Ashby 17
Spalding produced their best performance for two months to hand second-placed Ashby only their third defeat of the season at Memorial Field.
After taking a well-deserved 10-0 lead into the half-time break, the Elephants ultimately had Willis Ingleby’s penalty to thank for their narrow margin of victory.
However, the much-needed win number four of the season could and should have been more comfortable as captain Richard Cooke, vice captain Jason Steels, number eight Harry Sharman and lock Ash Piccaver engineered the upset over Ashby.
Right from the start, Spalding looked energised after a bye week in their league programme as the forwards showed a clear intention not to allow Ashby any chance of dominating the game.
Tackles stuck, passes found their man and messages from coach George Reid were taken on board, while Spalding’s visitors from Ashby-de-la-Zouch found it harder than expected to justify their lofty league position.
So it came as no suprise that Spalding took the lead just moments after winger Ashton Capes missed a convertible penalty chance that fell short of the posts.
Undeterred, Town put together a well-worked move that saw Steels dive over in the corner, Capes missing the follow-up conversion.
After a string of handling and passing errors from Ashby, Spalding went further ahead when Sharman fed the ball to Will Shields from a five-metre scrum.
Shields set up the promising Capes for a try in the opposite corner which Piccaver was unsuccessful in converting.
But this season, Town’s achilles heel has been second half collapses after first half promises and so more scores were needed for extra home security.
Winger George Douglas seemed to have provided that with a breakaway try for the hosts, this time converted by replacement Willis Ingleby.
Douglas’s score and the added conversion put Town 17-0 up, surely an unassailable lead even against high-flying Ashby. However, a bombshell of back-to-back tries from Ashby wingers Rhys James and Alex Deakin, the latter converted by fly half Dan Livesey, completely changed the landscape of the match.
With the score 17-12, Spalding supporters were braced for another second-half slide from their side.
But it never came as Reid’s men dug deep to extend their lead back to eight point with an Ingleby penalty.
In the end, it proved the difference between a morale-boosting home win and a possible season-shattering defeat as an unconverted try from Ashby full-back Dave Burton threatened to spoil the Elephants’ pre-Christmas script.
Referee Ian Farrell’s full-time whistle and the post-match huddle afterwards spoke volumes for a young Spalding side who suddenly realised they were good enough both to stay, and compete, in this league.
SPALDING: Waudby, Barratt, Hudson, McClaren, Piccaver, Cooke, Steels, H. Sharman; Shields, Adams, Capes, Brown, McHugh, G. Sharman, Douglas.
ASHBY: M. Burton, Stewart, Hutt, Large, Parton, Busby, Hearfield, Beesley, Marklew, Livesey, James, Westwood, Grewcock, Deakin, D. Burton.
REFEREE: Ian Farrell.
TRIES: Spalding - Steels, Capes, Douglas; Ashby - James, Deakin, D. Burton.
CONVERSIONS: Spalding - Ingleby; Ashby - Livesey.
• Deepings won their second A15 derby meeting with Bourne in two weeks after a 24-15 away win in the Lincolnshire Cup at Milking Nook Drove.