Sterling Performance Against the Best Team in the League
The scoreline does not reflect the huge effort by the lads to contain Long Eaton who are by far and away the best team in the league, boosted by their links to Nottingham Rugby Academy and the two universities in town
We frustrated them as reflected in
On Saturday Spalding travelled away to Long Eaton and into the “Lions Den” as no team has been able to inflict a defeat on Long Eaton all season. In fact, at home, earlier in the season, Spalding have been the only team to come the closest, when they nearly sprang a huge surprise and with a disallowed try in the last minute of play denied them victory.
The scoreline does not reflect the huge effort by the lads to contain Long Eaton who are by far and away the best team in the league, boosted by their links to Nottingham Rugby Academy and the two universities in town. In reality, the only feasible game play on the day was to deny the home team possession, especially with the young and talented players at their disposal. Accordingly a very experienced pack of forwards was selected by Spalding with Dave McClaren and Kev Hudson coming in, whilst out in the backs Will Shields reverted to scrum half and both Willis Ingleby and Ben Shields, with their youthful enthusiasm, featuring in the backs .
Long Eaton started the match as expected, with an adventure, using their back row players to gain territory and then releasing the ball quickly to their backs. The home team’s first score was as a result of a Spalding lineout going wrong with the ball being adjudged not straight. Scrum to the home team and out to their left winger, who swept in to open the scoring.
Ten minutes later an attempted clearance kick was taken by Long Eaton’s left winger who again raced in for his second try after seventeen minutes of play. Finally Spalding’s forwards started to hold onto the ball, driving forward to set up a succession of rucks led by Pete Waudby and Pete Smith and even when the ball was lost, Captain Richard Cooke was first in with a tackle and Jacob Greaves supporting with Long Eaton knocking on and possession turned over repeatedly.
With half an hour on the clock Spalding launched a succession of attacks deep in the twenty two, rounding off with fly half Dan Adams crashing over and Ingleby converting. Indeed at this stage Long Eaton’s frustration resulted in their loose head prop being yellow carded for dissent. With half time looming Long Eaton’s frustration again boiled over as their open side flanker got involved and was yellow carded but unfortunately Harry Brown had retaliated with a single punch and he received a straight red card.
Within a couple of minutes the home team helped themselves to a couple of tries firstly through their scrum and then as a result of missed tackle by Spalding for a half time lead of 24 points to 7. Spalding were caught cold at the restart as Long Eaton’s fly half orchestrated a miss move and their strong running centre burst through to score. Next a long punt downfield saw the ball bouncing free and the scoring was starting to rattle up in favour of the home team.
Will Shields went off with a wrist injury, later to discover it was broken, and George Reid came on and Cooke moving to scrum half
Limited opportunities were coming Spalding’s way but they capitalised on a free kick awarded 10 metres out, with Cooke taking a quick tap and Adams was again on hand, crashing the ball over the line, with Ingleby adding the conversion.
Next Long Eaton’s flanker deliberately tripped a Spalding player and as he had already been yellow carded in the first half, he received a red.
Spalding’s experienced pack started to suffer for stamina in the last twenty minutes up against Long Eaton’s younger team, who finally came into their own running in a further four tries but Long Eaton also suffered a further yellow card.
However the final 5 minutes was all about Spalding’s undying spirit.
Indeed Premiership Champions, Exeter Chiefs, would have been very proud and delighted with the way Spalding initially worked their way up field, led by Cooke and Adams, retaining possession and recycling as they reached Long Eaton’s 5 metre line. Passionately, the forwards drove forward only to be rebuffed by stout defence. Smith drove, then Hudson, then McClaren inching forward with every effort, but ensuring the ball was available for the next drive. Spalding were nearly over, but denied. After sustained pressure lasting a good 5 minutes the ball was moved left initially Cooke at the breakdown onto Adams then George Brown and the final pass to left winger Fin Peters saw him dive in at the corner for the final act of the match.
Spalding to their credit managed to get under Long Eaton’s skin, disrupt their play, as reflected in the three yellow and one red card plus some of their mischief making at the breakdown, unnoticed by the referee, whilst Harry Brown, with a solitary one retaliation punch, needed to also walk. If we had manage just one more try we would have had a bonus point to come home with, which would have been exceptional, but a sterling performance none the less.
Next week’s home match against old rivals Mansfield should be a special.
Team Jacob Greaves, Pete Waudby, Pete Smith, Kev Hudson, Dave Mc Claren, Kieran Bailey, Captain Richard Cooke, Harry Brown, Will Shields, Dan Adams, Fin Peters, Willis Ingleby, George Brown, Ben Shields, George Douglas Sub George Reid