Midlands One East - Spalding 23 Bugbrooke 39
Saturday marked the start of the second half of the season - but Spalding are still searching for their first win.
They entertained Bugbrooke who had beaten them 62-3 on the opening day and, despite an improved performance, it was another home defeat.
Since that first match the Northamptonshire side’s form has continued to be good with them currently in a comfortable position of sixth in the league.
With the loss of Alex Ioannou to Peterborough Lions, vice-captain Sam Cooke reverted to the front row alongside Jacob Hutson and Josh Caley. Making a welcome return to the team were Ash Piccaver and Charlie Seconde who had accidentally clashed heads four weeks ago with both requiring 20 stitches.
Making his first-team debut was Matt Heinze having had some good performances in the second team. Before leaving Spalding for university in 2009 he had played in the successful Colts team alongside the Deurden brothers and Pete Waudby.
In ideal conditions for rugby and with a nip in the air the match got under way and the early exchanges were encouraging for Spalding with Harry Brown, playing number eight on his return from suspension, soon in the action with breaks from the scrum.
Bugbrooke were the first to score when a neat offload opened the Spalding defence for an unconverted try.
Jos Broome at fly-half was kicking well from hand to gain territory and after 17 minutes had the opportunity to slot over a penalty from 25 metres to open Spalding’s account. However the home team were again undone by another offload with Bugbrooke’s centre scoring.
The conversion looked a relative simple affair but young Will Moore, playing on the right wing, showed he is learning quickly with a remarkable charge down of the conversion attempt.
Heinze’s match unfortunately was over after sustaining a shoulder injury and Rob Lucas slotted into outside centre with Seconde coming off the bench at full-back.
Spalding’s two flankers Ed Duerden and Liam Richardson were causing Bugbrooke problems with their play at the breakdown with the occasional steal of possession and cutting down their attacking options with determined tackling.
With a penalty conceded Broome sent a towering kick to touch for a lineout. The ball was won at the tail by Brown who spun out of a tackle and was over from fivemetres and with Broome successfully kicking the conversion the match was all-square after 35 minutes.
Under pressure Bugbrooke infringed again at the breakdown by not releasing in the tackle and from 40 metres Broome sent over a wonderful penalty kick to edge Spalding into the lead.
Up to now Bugbrooke had been unable to release their centres or wingers into open space with captain Ryan Chappell leading the way in closing down space and putting in some crunching tackles.
With the home team’s defence caught out of position a good move allowed Bugbrooke to put their left-winger into space to score in the corner on the stroke of half-time for a lead of 15 points to 13.
On resumption some early pressure by Spalding resulted in a penalty being awarded and Broome stepped up for a successful kick for a narrow lead.
This seemed to stir Bugbrooke who stepped up their intensity and for the next 20 minutes they dominated the match, retaining possession.
Firstly a lineout from five metres resulted in a well-executed catch and drive move by the visitors’ forwards for an unconverted try.
Ten minutes later after a good rumble by the visitors forwards the ball was spread out to their right-winger to run down his second try of the match.
This was then followed by the Bugbrooke forwards picking and driving towards the line, only for the maul to be illegally stopped by Spalding and a penalty try to be awarded by the referee Tim Allatt who was having an excellent afternoon.
Bugbrooke’s final try was again created by the visitors forwards pulling in Spalding’s defence, which allowed space out wide for their left-winger to score.
With 24 points conceded within 20 minutes during the second half the match had suddenly gone away from Spalding and all the good work they had put in during the opening half.
Leadership to steady the ship was required and Cooke stepped up with his forwards as they put Bugbrooke under pressure in the corner with a forwards drive and he emerged with the ball to dive over. Again Broome kicked a difficult conversion with hardly any further time on the clock.
Man of the match for Spalding was Brown who carried well from the scrum and in open play had several storming runs penetrating deep into Bugbrooke’s defence.
Week by week Spalding’s performances are improving but they will need to pick up their first win early in the new year if they are going to save themselves from relegation. Spalding have in the past been in exactly the same position and saved their season. On this performance it can be done again.
Spalding: Hutson, Cooke, Caley, Piccaver, Waltham, Richardson, Duerden, Brown, Shields, Broome, Moore, Chappell, captain, Heinze, Browne, Lucas, Osborne, Seconde, Bailey.