RUGBY UNION: Spalding earn first away win of season
With more than half the season gone, Spalding finally achieved a hard-earned away win.
There was a lot hanging on this result with old rivals Mansfield breathing down Spalding’s neck in the league and fielding a strong team.
Playing uphill in the first half, Spalding started positively by taking the game to Mansfield with a combination of good carries by the forwards and scrum-half Ben Shields zipping the ball out to his backs.
As a result Mansfield had to defend deep in their half and conceded a number of penalties near their try line.
But, with a missed penalty and determined Mansfield defence, Spalding failed to capitalise.
Mansfield soon turned defence into attack and, with two successive lineouts on Spalding’s five-metre line, the home team were looking to turn their possession into points.
Stout defence and excellent tackling by forwards Ash Anker and Kev Hudson, with Dan Adams and Tom Wilson in the backs also closing down space, the home team were denied any scoring opportunities.
With the game ebbing and flowing and no one gaining a decisive upper hand, Spalding claimed the lead after 25 minutes of play.
With the wind making life difficult, John Barrett found Ash Piccaver in a shortened lineout. Harry Sharman was lying out in the backs and - with a turn of speed - gained 30 metres, passed out to flanker Will Shields to go over. With the try converted, Spalding had a seven-point advantage.
With confidence high, Spalding pushed Mansfield off their ball at the next scrum but the hosts were working their way down into the corner on the five-metre line.
With a lineout win, the home team drove for the line and set up a ruck ready for the forwards to pick and drive. Spalding defended well but the referee called Jordan Templer offside on the blind side of a ruck by half a step, not directly involved in play which was on the open side, awarded a penalty try and showed the yellow card.
With a strong bench, Adams brought on both forwards Ryan Chappell and Tim Waltham for Ash Piccaver and Ben Shields with Will Shields moving to scrum-half at half time.
With the game all-square, Spalding had the slope advantage but within a couple of minutes they were caught offside. A successful penalty kick put Mansfield in the lead.
Spalding stepped up their game and pinned Mansfield deep in their half.
Sharman took a quick tap and go penalty and Chappell was stopped on the line. But the ball was recycled and Harry Cole went over out wide to edge Spalding back in the lead by two points with 25 minutes still to play.
During the first half, the referee had been extremely tolerant with Mansfield as they conceded numerous penalties and constantly disputed decisions.
Rather belatedly, a yellow card was shown to Mansfield's number eight but again poor execution and ball retention by Spalding meant they failed to take advantage.
Full-back Conall Mason was being tested by Mansfield, kicking deep and chasing down, but he stood up well to the pressure in defence and George Brown came off the bench to replace Wilson in the backs.
With the final minutes of the match remaining, Spalding again surrendered territorial advantage which sparked the home camp that they could steal a victory through their forwards.
Competition became intense and Templer received a second yellow and departed from the field.
Kev Hudson was forced off with a back problem and Piccaver was back on but within a few seconds he also received a red card.
Mansfield kicked the penalty to the five-metre line for their final lineout but it was stolen by excellent work from Waltham and Spalding’s first away win of the season had been secured.