RUGBY UNION: Spalding beaten by league leaders
Despite the scoreline, this was a huge effort by Spalding away to the runaway league leaders.
Earlier in the season, they nearly sprang a huge surprise as a disallowed try in the last minute denied them victory.
In reality, the only feasible game plan on Saturday was to deny possession to the home team, especially with the young and talented players at their disposal.
An experienced pack of forwards was selected by Spalding with Dave McClaren and Kev Hudson coming in, while out in the backs Will Shields reverted to scrum-half and both Willis Ingleby and Ben Shields, with their youthful enthusiasm, featured in the backs.
Long Eaton started the match as expected, using their back row players to gain territory and then releasing the ball quickly to their backs.
The home team’s first score came as a result of a Spalding lineout going wrong with the ball being adjudged not straight. The scrum went out to their left-winger who swept in to open the scoring.
Ten minutes later, an attempted clearance kick was taken by the left-winger who again raced in for his second try.
Finally Spalding’s forwards started to hold onto the ball, driving forward to set up a succession of rucks led by Pete Waudby and Pete Smith.
Even when the ball was lost, captain Richard Cooke was first in with a tackle and Jacob Greaves supported with Long Eaton knocking on and possession turned over repeatedly.
With half an hour on the clock, Spalding launched a succession of attacks deep in the 22, rounding off with fly-half Dan Adams crashing over and Ingleby converting.
At this stage Long Eaton’s frustration resulted in their loose head prop being yellow-carded for dissent.
With half-time looming, Long Eaton’s frustration again boiled over as their open side flanker got involved and was yellow-carded but Harry Brown had retaliated with a single punch and he received a straight red card.
Within a couple of minutes the home team helped themselves to a couple of tries – firstly through their scrum and then as a result of missed tackle by Spalding for a half-time lead of 24-7.
Spalding were caught cold at the restart as Long Eaton’s fly-half orchestrated a miss move and ther strong-running centre burst through to score.
Next a long punt downfield saw the ball bouncing free and the scoring was starting to rattle up in favour of the home team.
Will Shields went off with a broken wrist before Spalding capitalised on a free-kick awarded 10 metres out, with Cooke taking a quick tap and Adams was again on hand, crashing the ball over the line, with Ingleby adding the conversion.
Long Eaton’s flanker then deliberately tripped a player and as he had already been yellow-carded in the first half, he received a red.
Spalding’s experienced pack started to suffer for stamina in the last 20 minutes up against a younger team who finally came into their own – running in four tries but also picking up another yellow card.
After sustained pressure, Fin Peters scored in the corner for the final act of the match.
Spalding: Greaves, Waudby, Smith, Hudson, McClaren, Bailey, Cooke, H Brown, W Shields, Adams, Peters, Ingleby, G Brown, B Shields, Douglas. Sub: Reid.