RUGBY UNION: Early lead thrown away by Spalding in second half
Spalding couldn't build on an early advantage as they were beaten at Dunstablians on Saturday in their opening league game.
The pre-season build up had been good with four wins - including the defeat of Stamford in the NLD Cup - and with very good player numbers, the first-team squad were keenly anticipating their season.
However, as a result of injuries, holidays and unavailability on Saturday, captain Dan Adams had a limited pool of players to select from.
This resulted in a reshuffled pack with Will Shields playing openside flanker instead of scrum-half, Jason Steels stepping up to play lock, Matt Heaton coming in at front row and George Brown - who has played his rugby as a centre - featuring at blind side flanker. Also making a welcome return was Wilson Crowson at scrum-half.
The backs, however, had a familiar starting line-up and within two minutes of the start the pace of fly-half Willis Ingleby saw him slice open Dunstablians' defence for Spalding to open the scoring.
Both teams were looking to their backs to make breaks and within five minutes Dunstablians had their right-winger over the try line and with a successful conversion they took the lead.
Not surprisingly Spalding’s pack came under pressure in the scrums with Harry Sharman experience at number eight being tested as he tidied up rather than Crowson getting poor ball under pressure.
Spalding were enjoying their moments with Gav Sharman on the wing showing his pace and Dunstablians being tested by Adams with his forceful runs at centre.
The turning point in the first half was Spalding losing possession in attack after 30 minutes and with limited defensive cover Dunstablians were in under the posts for a converted try.
Turning around at half-time seven points adrift, Spalding were still in the game but steadily Dunstablians' forwards were gaining the edge both in the scrum and in open play.
Spalding were struggling as they steadily failed to manage their limited possession, resorting to rather aimless kicks downfield and instead of gaining territory Dunstablians' backs started to open up with pace.
But it was not until the last quarter that the home team finally pulled away with a penalty kick, a penalty try as Spalding’s scrum went backwards and a converted try in the final minute from a quickly-taken penalty.
Spalding were not helped by many of the refereeing decisions in the second half, which seemed to be influenced by the home team, but they will have to learn to adapt rather than let it affect their concentration and their play.
The new league will be throwing up many challenges for Spalding but with their group of players it should be an exciting ride this season.