At the start of Saturday’s game against league leaders Melbourne, the question everybody was asking was could Spalding spring an unexpected surprise?
They needed to take on the visitors at their own game, being good in the scrum but even better in the backs to come away with some valuable points.
Within six minutes of the start, Melbourne had the answer as they swiftly passed the ball along the line and scored through their outside centre.
With a conversion, the scoreboard came into action for a seven-point lead.
Gav Sharman, on Spalding’s left wing, took a knock while tackling – forcing him to leave the field for treatment.
Within Spalding’s starting line-up there were a couple of surprises.
Luke Turner started at lock even though he had gone to hospital the previous week for a fractured finger.
Adam McHugh returned at full-back with George Douglas moving to the wing and Ben Williamson made a rare appearance in the centre alongside Taylor Crowson.
Early on both scrum-halves were showing that they would be key to the day with the Melbourne player taking the honours ahead of Will Shields.
In fact, the Melbourne scrum-half was instrumental in nearly all of the visitors’ good moves with his quick passing and thinking.
Whether from the scrum, lineout, breakdown or even quick tap penalties, the intention was clear to run and pass the ball at pace.
By the beginning of the second quarter with a 14-point lead, Melbourne were starting to find that Spalding’s defence was proving difficult to beat with some excellent tackling around the fringes and stopping their centre on crash ball moves.
In doing so McHugh took a nasty blow to his face and departed with Sharman returning.
However, Spalding were struggling to create anything off their own ball.
As the first half was drawing to a close, with Ash Piccaver picking up a yellow card for pulling down a driving maul as it approached the try line, Melbourne added two further tries to lead 22-0.
With Piccaver back on the pitch both he and Tom Duerden were showing how to carry the ball strongly in open play gaining valuable distance.
Additionally and perhaps for the first time this season Spalding’s scrum was gaining superiority with Melbourne on the retreat. But Spalding were unable to use this to any real advantage.
The lack of confidence was illustrated when Spalding’s scrum from five metres out were edging forward and instead of using their superiority to go over, picked the ball and tried to drive over – only to be held up and conceding a turnover.
Towards the end Melbourne were full of running with their scrum-half breaking free down the right hand side to score, followed by their left-winger outpacing Spalding’s cover defence from the halfway line.
Although Spalding battled throughout the game, they could not stop the leaders’ progress towards being crowned champions with Spalding almost certainly doomed to go in the other direction.
Spalding: Watts, Caley, Barrett, Turner, H Brown, Duerden, Piccaver, Steels, Shields, Winch, Sharman, Williamson, Crowson, Douglas, McHugh. Subs Waudby, G Brown, Waine.