Spalding defeat resurgent Sleaford in close-fought derby
Last season, Sleaford did the double over Spalding, but with a resurgent undefeated home league record, the omens were not looking to promising for the visitors especially having already been at the wrong end of a heavy defeat at the Memorial Ground in a Cup game in October.
However, Sleaford turned up with a completely new-look team, who from the kick-off were determined to put one over rivals Spalding, even though they were lying second from bottom of the league.
They soon showed they were well organised, had a solid scrum and a good lineout, all leading to them benefiting from plenty of possession throughout the match.
Sleaford started the brighter, testing Spalding’s resilience, especially at the breakdown, showing skills, undetected by the referee, at slowing the ball down and after 10 minutes of play these tactics drew frustration from Spalding, with Harry Cole being yellow-carded
Time and again, Spalding’s defence needed to be solid as they stood their ground well, with effective tackling, with Ash Anker to the fore. The backs were also being tested, with Tom Wilson showing up well at outside centre.
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After nearly half-an-hour, Spalding made their first major impact. Ash Piccaver burst through the middle, at speed, evading the early Sleaford tackles with several changes of direction, but was finally hauled down 10 metres from the line. The ball was recycled by scrum half Will Shields and captain Dan Adams burst through to open the scoring with an unconverted try
The battle for possession continued to be fairly even but when an opportunity arose, Spalding were demonstrating a greater try line threat. With Sleaford conceding a penalty, Spalding kicked for touch. With the lineout working well, with Mark Haighton dominating at the front of a five-man lineout, Cole took the ball at pace and crashed through the defence, turned on the line to touch down, only for the referee to have judged ball was held up
With half-time imminent, Spalding counter-attacked with the ball at long last moved out wide with Willis Ingleby, at pace, outstripping Sleaford’s defence. With the last defender closing, a brilliantly-executed pass back inside to Gav Sharman and he was over the try line for a lead of 10 points
Early in the second half, Sleaford came back at Spalding, mainly through their forwards, but Luke Turner and George Berry in particular were standing firm and not giving an inch.
Ten minutes in and Spalding won a turnover. From nowhere, Adams broke through the middle and outpace the Sleaford defence from 40 metres and with Ingleby converting, there was now daylight between the two teams
Prop Kev Hudson drove towards the try line and with his outstretched hand touched down, but again, the referee disallowed the try, judging the ball to have been knocked on, to most supporters' disbelief
Spalding were attempting to spread the ball out wide, but with runners not coming from deep and Sleaford closing down effectively, the ball was rarely finding either winger. Finally, a looping pass reached Gav Sharman and with a sidestep, his pace took him around his opposing winger and for his second try.
Sleaford kept battling away and they were rewarded for in the final minutes with a converted try.
Spalding made heavy weather of this match with the forwards battling away but finding Sleaford’s back row in their faces all afternoon. The backs carried the main threat when the ball was spread wide but Spalding’s game plan seemed to be fairly limited resulting in this tight game.
However, a bonus point win has lifted them back up to fifth in the league and with a further home game next week, a further move up the league should be on the cards.