RUGBY: Strong Spalding show not enough

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MATLOCK 33 SPALDING RFC 23: Town produced one of their best-ever showings at the notoriously tough Matlock venue – but it was ultimately a fruitless trip as they dropped into the bottom two.

On a bitterly cold afternoon, Spalding kicked off with the tough slope against them.

They almost made the perfect start against their promotion-chasing hosts though, as Harry Harrison touched down in the corner.

But it was ruled that the ball was knocked on in the process of being put down and the points were chalked off.

However, the away side didn’t have to wait too long to open the scoring. Awarded a penalty some 30 metres out, Dave Hankinson had no problem dispatching an early three points.

The larger and stronger Matlock forwards were making their advantage tell in the scrums and loose play though – and although Spalding stood firm, they soon made their mark. Having kicked a penalty into touch, the hosts won the lineout and drove over the line for a converted try. From the re-start Hankinson had the chance to pull three points back, but sent another penalty wide of the posts.

Almost instantly Matlock were then awarded a scrum just inside their half. The ball was quickly cleared from the base of the scrum and their centre showed his pace and cut through the visitors’ defence to score under the posts.

The conversion made it 14-3 in the hosts’ favour after just 2o minutes.

That soon got worse when a Matlock scrum ten metres out resulted in the Spalding forwards wheeling – and denying the score.

The referee had no alternative than to award a penalty try, which was duly converted and the score moved to 21-3.

A Hankinson penalty reduced the deficit somewhat, but Matlock drove a scrum over the line to register another try before half time, which again was converted.

There was no change in momentum early in the second half, as the hosts yet again drove a scrum over the line to score. Although the conversion failed, Town were now trailing 33-6.

The Spalding of earlier this season may have caved in at the stage, but Town are now made of sterner stuff. They grabbed their first try on 46 minutes after a Matlock forward received a ten minute break in the sin bin. After winning a lineout, Spalding skipper Harry Sharman emerged with the ball to score. Hankinson added the conversion to cut the home lead.

With the game now being played largely in Matlock’s 22 metre area, Town started to sense an upset. Awarded a touch some 20 metres out, it was Sharman again who broke clear, shrugging off two tacklers before touching down for a second try. Hankinson again converted, leaving Spalding right in the game with ten minutes left.

The away side continued to pile on the pressure late on, but couldn’t find another score – despite spurning an opportunity to kick another penalty, which would have earned them a bonus point.

Spalding RFC: Harry Sharman (captain), Peter Waudby, Ollie Lake, Jimmy Rowlands, Harry Brown, Alex Coates, Ed Duerden, Ash Anker, Rob Lucas, Dave Hankinson, Ben Williamson, Ryan Chappell, Harry Harrison, Harry Winch, Adam McHugh, Sam Cooke, Luke Scotney and Craig Dowse.

Saturday: Market Rasen & Louth v Spalding RFC (2.15pm).