Spalding Rugby Club defeat Boston in the RFU Midlands Senior Vase
Spalding made a successful start to their defence of the RFU Midlands Senior Vase with a 20-5 victory over Boston on Saturday.
It was the competition they had last won in March 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic when they produced an excellent performance against Dunstablians.
And nearly 18 months later, it was a Spalding side with buckets full of enthusiasm that took to the Memorial Field on Saturday.
Their team selection threw up a few surprises, with the biggest being George Brown – who has spent his whole career as a centre – being chosen in the front row as hooker.
In the forward line, it was good to see former captain Harry Brown back at blind-side flanker and Connor Lilburn starting after a series of injuries.
A new combination at half back took to the field with Adam Sutcliffe, having moved to the area, starting at scrum-half and Conall Mason moving up from full-back to fly-half with Willis Ingleby having moved on.
George Douglas was also returning at full-back, hoping to build on some good performances back in the 2018/19 season.
Another interesting selection was the pairing of centres Taylor and Wilson Crowson.
During the NLD Summer Cup competition they had shown pace, trickery and sound defence, and captain Luke Turner was keen to see what they could bring along with some of the experienced players such as player-coach Harry Sharman, Ash Piccaver, Gav Sharman and vice-captain Will Shields.
The opening few minutes set the scene for the match with both sets of forwards looking to dominate, keeping the ball tight and punching holes in defence with good carries.
Leading the way for Spalding was Piccaver and Harry Sharman, while Boston locks Deano Dean and Lewis Eldin were also showing up well.
With no real openings in the first few minutes for either side, Spalding took the opportunity to kick a penalty from 35 metres and Mason coolly stepped up and the ball sailed between the posts for a 3-0 lead.
Boston, however, came straight back at Spalding and within a few minutes they had worked an opening which their scrum half Josh Cook gratefully took, set up by the left winger Perry Cumber coming inside, to put the visitors in the lead by two points.
For the next 20 minutes it was stalemate between both teams, but Boston seemed to be edging the game and territory without threatening Spalding’s try line.
As with any local derby there was a level of intensity and determination by both teams not normally associated with the opening game of the season, and finally Boston conceded a kickable penalty which Mason converted for Spalding to edge into the lead.
From the restart, Spalding kicked deep cross field with left winger Gav Sharman chasing down as Boston’s right winger Jaron Cowen failed to gather the ball.
Sharman instead gathered and sped for the try line to open his account for the season and, with Mason converting, suddenly in the last minute of the first half Spalding had extended their lead to 13-5.
There were no surprises when the second half resumed with the forwards continuing to carry, followed by a ruck and scrum half Sutcliffe looking for another phase and carry.
The wingers on both sides were rarely seeing the ball, while Boston’s centres allowed Taylor and Wilson Crowson to showcase their defensive tackling.
Boston’s fly half Rowan Mason was kicking long for territory, but full-back Douglas was catching the high balls every time and setting up counter-attacks.
With 10 minutes left to play, Spalding should have done better with a penalty kick to touch five metres out, but were not clinical enough and Boston cleared.
Spalding came straight back and were deep inside Boston’s 22, and a few penetrating carries by the forwards saw captain Turner over with Mason converting for a lead of 15 points.
Boston were not finished and there was some desperate defending on Spalding’s try line and, with the visitors finally being tackled into touch, the line-out was won by Piccaver and with Mason’s clearance kick, the pressure was off and the whistle blew.
It rounded off an excellent match with Spalding coming out on top, but due credit must also go to Boston and their pack who gave as good as they got.
Spalding: Luke Turner, George Brown, Tom Rollinson, Ash Piccaver, Connor Lilburn, Harry Brown, Will Shields, Harry Sharman, Adam Sutcliffe, Conall Mason, Gav Sharman, Taylor Crowson, Wilson Crowson, Ben Shields, George Douglas. Subs: Callum Lewis, Miguel Da Silva, Macauley Crane.
Spalding get their Midlands 3 East (South) campaign underway this weekend when they travel to Dunstablians on Saturday.