RUGBY UNION: All to play for at home in final game of season
Spalding need just one bonus point win to avoid any threat of relegation – but Saturday’s trip to second-placed Ashby was always going to be a big challenge.
A surprise appearance by former captain Peter Shakespeare in the back row boosted the squad, together with Sam Cooke featuring on the bench.
Youngster Conall Mason came in at full-back for a good mixture of experience and youth.
As Ashby took to the field, they had three players in their pack well over 6ft and the first few phases of play soon showed that they were a well drilled outfit but Spalding’s defence looked well organised.
With eight minutes on the clock, the home team had a scrum out wide. With the ball secured, their number eight went blind and feed the right-winger who cut back inside to score a converted try.
The boggy pitch conditions started to have an effect with mistakes and knock-ons.
Spalding contained the home team with disciplined teamwork and excellent tackling.
With their first main foray deep into opposition territory, a penalty was converted by Willis Ingleby.
Meanwhile Ash Piccaver and Jason Steels battled with some success at the lineout thanks to the effective throws by Tom Rollinson.
With five minutes of the first half remaining, Mason was winded while tackling and replaced by Cooke with Gav Sharman moving to full-back.
Ashby capitalised on lost possession by Spalding in attack, running back the length of the field and their right-winger stepping back inside to score.
Lost possession a lineout caused the next score for Ashby and 14 points had been conceded by the visitors within a few minutes.
Different tactics by the two teams in the second half soon became apparent.
Spalding were using their experienced pack of forwards to retain possession with pick and drives.
Meanwhile Ashby were looking to utilise pace out wide and the right-winger was in first to score.
But Spalding’s ball retention in the forwards soon paid off as Steels and John Barrett gained yardage with excellent carries and Piccaver was held up just short of the try line. But the ball was recycled and prop Jacob Greaves drove over for his first try for Spalding.
Spalding were all over the place at the restart and Ashby ran in an easy try.
Using their scrum to good effect, Ashby got another try.
Penalties continued to be conceded with players having difficulty at the break down to stay on their feet, generally to the benefit of Spalding.
Working their way up field with some good kicks to touch by Ingleby, an overlap was created out wide and Liam Adams scored in the corner for his first senior try.
Ashby had the last score but it is now all to play for next weekend when Spalding are at home against Belper.