Midlands One East - Ilkeston 83 Spalding 0
Sam Cooke led Spalding onto the field knowing that it was going to be a tough day against Ilkeston who were lying fifth in the league chasing the teams at the top.
Back in October in the home fixture Spalding had run Ilkeston close with a 22-16 defeat but on Saturday, with Ilkeston winning the toss and choosing to play with the ‘slope’ in the first half, the omens were not inspiring.
Within three minutes Ilkeston were already piling on the pressure and a relieving kick by Jos Broome found touch for a home lineout.
The ball was secured by the home side and was quickly spread across the park by Ilkeston’s backs giving space for their right-winger to run in the first try.
With the slope and a heavy pitch Spalding were struggling to get out of their half and they conceded a penalty which Ilkeston elected to kick to the corner.
The lineout ball was efficiently secured for a driving maul to be formed and a blindside break saw the scoreboard starting to tick up in Ilkeston’s favour.
With greater physical presence in the forwards Spalding’s scrum was under constant pressure but during the match both Harry Brown playing number eight and scrum-half Will Shields showed up well, rescuing the situation on many occasions.
Brown was picking the ball up while retreating and getting over the gain line and Shields was doing what a good scrum-half should do, either getting the difficult ball away to the fly-half or making a nuisance of himself on the opposition ball and putting in brave cover tackles.
However the tide could not be held back by Spalding and with the tackle count stacking up spaces were being found by Ilkeston who ran in four tries during a 15-minute spell leading up to half-time for a lead of 43-0.
With the ‘slope’ advantage there was hope in the Spalding camp as they kicked off for the second half that they could take the game to the home team but they had other ideas.
Ilkeston forwards drove down the middle of the pitch and their scrum-half broke down the blindside to go in under the posts.
Spalding’s bench started to be used and a welcome return to the first team was made by Kev Childs who took his place on the wing for the first time since last season. Also off the bench during the second period were Josh Caley and Gareth Osborne.
Spalding’s Mark Haighton was giving a lineout master class throughout the match, with his years of experience, winning just about every ball that Cooke throw in and was well supported by Kieran Bailey.
With some second-half possession Spalding were able to play in Ilkeston’s half for the first time in the match and Childs had a good 50-metre run down the wing but Ilkeston’s defensive cover foiled a score.
Ilkeston were too good on the day and with the home team’s dominant forwards and some excellent running by their backs more tries were conceded.
Although under pressure Spalding’s front row of Pete Waudby, Cooke and Jacob Hutson had stood up well in the scrums and had only lost one of their put-ins.
Spalding’s standout player on the day was youngster Will Shields who was in the thick of things throughout the match as any good scrum-half should be.
Spalding: Waudby, Cooke, Hutson, Haighton, Bailey, Read, Richardson, H Brown, Shields, Broome, S Williams, Douglas, Eggleton, Moore, Osborne, Caley, Childs.