Spalding’s season opened with a trip to Sleaford in the first round of the NLD Shield.
The pre-season trial match against Oundle should have been a good preparation with the wet conditions encountered on Saturday.
In the absence of injured captain Harry Brown, Harry Winch led the team onto the field – having returned from Peterborough Lions.
Also returning to the first team was front row Jacob Hutson and fly-half James West who both missed the majority of last season due to injury.
Making their debuts were Gavin Sharman, Harry Waine and Adam Castle.
The opening quarter of the match was encouraging with Spalding retaining most of the possession, a good pattern of play taking the ball into contact, quick support at the ensuing ruck and recycling the ball for the next wave of attack, pulling in Sleaford’s defence before the ball was released to the backs.
However there were early warning signs. The scrum was struggling to hold their ground against a Sleaford pack which included their second-team fly-half called up at the last minute to play in the front row.
The lineout was under constant pressure with Sam Cowell struggling with his throwing in throughout the afternoon and with little variation on the jumper, Sleaford were able to disrupt.
Scrum-half Will Shields had poor possession to deal with throughout the match.
The first score fell to Sleaford with a penalty but Spalding hit back nearly immediately with a quick tapped penalty being taken on the five-metre line and Winch taking a pass at pace to crash over the line.
Lock Kieran Bailey, who was struggling with a shoulder injury, was replaced by Josh Caley going into the front row and Mikey Watts moving to partner Jordan Templer.
With Sleaford steadily gaining the upper hand, they scored their first try just before half-time with an 8-5 lead.
With all to play for Spalding should have been capable of stepping up and going on to win the game.
However, Sleaford started more brightly with their fly-half finding room to bring his runners into play.
A second converted try was scored followed by a penalty for an 18-5 lead.
Gaps were appearing in both defences and Spalding’s wingers Sharman and Tom Winch started to show their pace.
Winch closed the gap with an excellent run and try down the wing.
However, Spalding’s teamwork was falling apart, discipline was poor with disrespect being shown to the referee and if there was a game plan, players were disregarding it.
Sleaford capitalised by scoring two converted tries and a penalty to run out easy winners.
This was a disappointing display by Spalding but if you are going to have an off day then perhaps it was best to get it out of the way before next week’s first league match at home to Coalville.
The failure to kick for territory when under pressure was hard to comprehend, so there is plenty to work on in training this week.
However, there were some positives with the performances of Hutson, Sharman, Waine and Shields.
Spalding: Watts, Cowell, Hutson, Bailey, Templer, Waine, Chappell, Harry Sharman, Shields, West, G Sharman, H Winch, Huw Sharman, T Winch, Douglas. Subs: Caley, Castle, Cooke.
The president’s weekend features two matches at home on Saturday plus a real ale bar and live band in the evening followed on Sunday by mini rugby, the start of the Back to Rugby Campaign and a touch rugby tournament.