ILKESTON RFC 29 SPALDING RFC 15: TOWN were left to rue a missed opportunity as they lost their opening Midlands One East fixture of the season.
Harry Sharman’s side were level at half time and missed a number of presentable opportunities in the second period, before eventually going down by 14 clear points.
Having gone down 45-16 in Derbyshire on the final day of last season, Spalding were fearing more of the same after allowing Ilkeston to run in an early converted try.
However, Town soon found a way to use the notorious Ilkeston slope to their advantage. A smart kick forward allowed Ollie Phillips to race away for a try, which was superbly converted by Dave Hankinson to level the scores.
The visitors then went ahead when the towering Mark Haighton took control of the ball from a breakdown and crossed the line for an unconverted score.
Ilkeston came straight back at Town and their right wing scored in the corner – only for it to be ruled out because of a forward pass. But three minutes later they levelled the scores with an unconverted score.
With only one minute to go before the break, Spalding were left fuming after having a try of their own disallowed. Ben Williamson touched down after George Brown and two defenders chased down a kick through, only for the referee to infuriate the away side by handing them a five metre scrum.
After the break, an Ilkeston full-back stepped inside four tackles to touch down their third try, which was converted, before a penalty extended the hosts’ lead further.
From then on it was frustrating for Spalding, as fly-half Hankinson made three excellent breaks through the home defence – only for poorly-executed pass to deny them a score on each occasion. Town also missed a very gettable penalty, before finally converting a kick of their own.
At this stage Town were on-course for a losing bonus point, but a fluffed kick saw them give possession away and Ilkeston made no mistake with a converted try to seal the win.
• Other Midlands One East results: Bedford Ath 35 Coalville 15; Derby 69 Towcestrians 21; L Buzzard 21 Kettering 29; Loughboro’ 12 Peterboro’ 44; Market Rasen & Louth 12 Paviors 50; Matlock 66 Nuneaton Old Edwardians 9.
• Saturday: Town v Leighton Buzzard (3pm).