ASHBOURNE RFC 24 SPALDING RFC 18: Town crashed out of the NLD Shield on Saturday as their first competitive game of the new season didn’t quite go to plan.
A last-gasp converted try by hosts Ashbourne turned an 18-17 advantage into a 24-18 deficit, leaving depleted Spalding to lick their wounds.
With around eight of the normal first team missing – including inspirational leader Harry Sharman – it proved too tough a task for Town against a team they’ll take on in Midlands Two East (North) this year.
Spalding were ahead inside ten minutes. They won a lineout and the ball came to Ben Williamson, who stepped inside his man before passing out to centre Harry Harrison, who used his speed and agility to open the scoring for the visitors.
The conversion missed, but Town had made an encouraging start.
They held that lead all the way up until the final five minutes of the first half, when the hosts grabbed a fortuitous try of their own.
The officials missed a blatant forward pass, allowing Ashbourne to touch down in the corner. As with Town, the conversion missed.
Parity didn’t last long, as Spalding immediately won a penalty and Matt Newman kicked the visitors into an 8-5 half-time lead.
The hosts went ahead for the first time early in the second half, their centre showing strength to go through two tackles before crossing to score in the corner.
However, after 15 minutes of the second half had passed Town produced arguably their most impressive play of the match to go back ahead.
The three-quarters picked up a loose ball in their own half and quickly moved it to Harrison, who cut inside two players before beating two others to the touchdown just to the left of the posts.
Williamson coolly converted to make it 15-10.
The roller-coaster nature of the match continued with Ashbourne moving 17-15 ahead following a converting score under the posts, but Spalding felt they had done enough to win when Williamson buried a penalty ten minutes from time.
It wasn’t to be though, as a period of Ashbourne pressure resulted in a decisive try, with Town missing two tackles in the build-up.
Town: Ed Duerden (captain), Alex Ioannou, Josh Caley, Pete Shakespeare, Tim Waltham, Tom Duerden, Luke Scotney, Harry Brown, Sean Booth, Ben Williamson, Matt Newman, Dan Cooper, Harry Harrison, George Brown, Sean Bishop, Hamish Munro, Andy Lal, Brian Browne and John Barrett.
• Saturday: Town v Norwich (see Thursday’s Spalding Guardian for a preview).