RUGBY UNION: Spalding leave the best until last for home win
Gavin Sharman’s hat-trick led the try fest to end any worries about relegation as Spalding left their best home display of the season until the final match.
They started the day knowing that only a win would guarantee them safety.
But after just two minutes, they were in for a shock as Belper kicked a penalty to touch only five metres from the try line.
As the lineout formed a cheeky throw to the front caught Spalding napping and in a flash the visitors had a five-point advantage.
Shaken but not stirred, Spalding were soon on the front foot and pressing deep inside Belper territory.
Richard Cooke passed to Dan Adams from the base of a ruck. Spotting an opening, Adams cut a line through the oncoming defence, held off a couple of tackles and stretched successfully for the try line.
Willis Ingleby kicked the conversion and the momentum had immediately shifted back in Spalding’s favour.
Both sets of forwards were battling hard but the cutting edge was in Spalding’s backs – especially the two wingers, Sharman and Ashton Capes.
With the ball having been won by Jacob Greaves at the breakdown, Cooke broke on the blind side and offloaded to centre George Brown. A pass out to Sharman saw him race down the wing, outpacing the defence for an unconverted try in the corner.
George Berry replaced Kev Hudson in the forwards and soon after the ball was moved swiftly out to Capes on the right wing.
With little room to play with, he managed to stay inside the touchline and then cut back inside for an unconverted try and a 12-point lead after 33 minutes.
Jason Steels lit up the day with half-time approaching. From the halfway line he used his speed to initially slice through the defence.
A change in direction saw Steels charge through one tackle then another and, with the try line approaching, the last defender was never going to execute a successful tackle. Steels had a try under the posts, successfully converted.
A bonus point for four tries had been secured.
The second half opening again caught Spalding asleep as they appeared to have lost concentration and level of intensity required.
Within a couple of minutes, Belper had a converted try.
Spalding played themselves back into the game with Harry Cole counter rucking well and Harry Brown, back in the team after a 10-week lay-off, making some huge breaks down the middle of the park.
Also back after a lay-off for concussion was Fin Peters, dealing extremely well with any high kicks from Belper and counter-attacking at pace.
Sharman capitalised as the game opened up with his pace outstripping Belper’s wide defence for his second try.
Coach George Reid started to ring further changes with Liam Adams coming on for Cole and Cooke off with Ben Shields taking over at scrum-half and John Barrett replaced by Hudson.
Sharman had already passed Cooke’s record number of tries in a season in recent times.
He went two better with a burst down the wing and a run under the posts for his hat-trick converted by Ingleby.
Another stunning forwards try closed the match and the season for Spalding.
Ash Piccaver was stationed away from the breakdown as the ball was pinged out to him by Shields and Adams, using his athletic build, burst through a couple of desperate tackles. He ran clear from 30 metres to score with Ingleby again converting.