RUGBY UNION: Cooke leads celebrations for Spalding
Spalding recorded their first win of the season to celebrate President’s Weekend.
They named a strong team featuring the return of Jacob Hutson in the front row, Luke Turner at lock, Jason Steels and Harry Brown in the back row with captain Richard Cooke switching to scrum-half.
On Birstall’s first-ever visit to the ground, Spalding immediately took play into the opposition half and the afternoon’s game plan was established with the forwards retaining the ball as they drove forward.
There was confidence in their play that was missing last week and early on Gav Sharman also showed his pace on the left wing with an excellent break.
The ball was recycled and George Douglas sliced through Birstall’s defence to open the scoring with Willis Ingleby converting for a lead of seven points with only four minutes on the clock.
Birstall opened their scoring in response with a penalty kick.
Spalding’s scrum was solid and secure with Ash Anker and Steels prominent with their carries as they entered the second quarter.
Anker was stopped just short of the try line with a typically robust break but Harry Brown was on hand to finish off and extend the lead.
The visitors were under pressure and Brown, taking the ball at pace, crashed over the line for Spalding’s third try.
Throughout the afternoon Cooke, with his forceful play, gained territory around the breakdown area and with Spalding again pressing, he sneaked over for a fourth first-half try to secure a 22-3 lead.
Birstall started to spread the ball out to their speedy backs but Spalding’s centre pairing of Dan Adams and George Brown were shutting down the space, ably assisted by fly-half Ingleby.
Birstall finally made one of their breaks count midway through the second half by scoring in the corner.
Douglas sustained a facial injury and was replaced by Fin Peters and later on, both Tom Wilson and Sam Cooke came off the bench replacing Anker and George Brown.
Spalding’s fighting spirit was awakened as they pressed Birstall in their half and Ash Piccaver was lucky to stay on the pitch.
However, minutes later, the yellow card was shown by the referee with Brown being caught retaliating and a Birstall player also taking a 10-minute break.
Tom Rollinson thought he had scored Spalding’s fifth try near the posts with Ingleby converting – but the referee was persuaded to change his mind and instead awarded a scrum back on 22 metres.
Rollinson was not to be denied his opening try for Spalding and a couple of minutes later he finished off a good move with the ball being passed along the line, five metres out, creating space for his diving finish.
Meanwhile, the Nomads could not quite manage a double celebration at home as they went down to a narrow defeat by Stewart & Lloyds.
Spalding: Hudson, Rollinson, Hutson, Turner, Piccaver, Anker, Steels, H Brown, R Cooke, Ingleby, Capes, Adams, G Brown, Sharman, Douglas. Subs S Cooke, Wilson, Peters.
MIDLANDS THREE EAST NORTH
Results: Ashby 42 Belper 7, Nottingham Moderns 5 Long Eaton 76, Rolls Royce 3 Kesteven 19, Sileby 39 Grimsby 44, Sleaford 38 Buxton 10, Spalding 27 Birstall 8.
Fixtures: Birstall v Ashby, Grimsby v Sleaford, Kesteven v Sileby, Long Eaton v Rolls Royce, Mansfield v Nottingham Moderns.
MIDLANDS FOUR EAST SOUTH
Results: Bedford Swifts 15 Old Grammarians 15, Bourne 5 Thorney 3, Brackley 14 Stamford College Old Boys 10, Deepings 5 St Neots 33.