Spalding Firsts End the Season on a High
Last game of the season and some brilliant rugby played by Spalding including a hat trick by Gavin Sharman, secured their league safety.
A Gavin Sharman hat trick led Spalding’s try fest against Belper putting to bed any worries about relegation, as they left their best home display of the season until the final match.
Spalding started the day knowing that only a win would guarantee them safety in Midlands Three East (North) but after just two minutes, they were in for an early shock as Belper kicked a penalty to touch only 5 metres from the try line. As the lineout formed a cheeky throw to the front caught Spalding napping and in a flash the visitors had a five point advantage.
Shaken but not stirred Spalding were soon on the front foot pressing deep inside Belper territory. Richard Cooke playing scrum half passed to fly half Dan Adams from the base of a ruck. Spotting an opening Adams cut a line through the oncoming defence, held off a couple of tackles and stretched successfully for the try line, converted by Willis Ingleby and the momentum immediately shifted in back in Spalding’s favour.
Both sets of forwards were battling hard but the cutting edge on the day was in Spalding’s backs, especially the two wingers, Gavin Sharman and Ashton Capes. With the ball having been won by Jacob Greaves at the breakdown Cooke broke on the blind side offloading to centre George Brown and a pass out to Sharman saw him race down the wing outpacing Belper defence for an unconverted try in the corner.
George Berry replaced Kev Hudson in the forwards and. soon after, the ball was moved swiftly out to Capes on the right wing. With little room to play with, he managed to stay inside the touchline and then cut back inside for an unconverted try and a twelve point lead after 33 minutes.
With half time approaching Jason Steels lit up the afternoon. From the half way line he used his speed to slice through Belper’s guard defence. A change in direction saw Steels charge through one tackle, and then another and with the try line approaching the last defender was never going to execute a successful tackle and Steels had a try under the posts, successfully converted. By half time a bonus point for four tries had been secured.
The start of the second half again saw Spalding sleeping as they appeared to have lost concentration and intensity enabling Belper to score within a couple of minutes - converting their try.
Slowly Spalding played themselves back into the game with Harry Cole counter-rucking well and Harry Brown back in the team, after a ten week lay-off, making some huge breaks down the middle of the park. Also back was Fin Peters (after a lay-off for concussion) in at fullback, dealing extremely well with any high kicks from Belper and counterattacking at pace. But it was Sharman who capitalised as the game opened up with his pace, outstripping Belper’s wide defence for his second try.
Coach George Reid now started to ring further changes with Liam Adams coming on for Cole and Captain Cooke off with Ben Shields taking over at scrum half and John Barrett replacing Hudson.
In this match Sharman had already passed Richard Cooke’s record number of tries in a season and he now went two better with a burst down the wing and a run under the posts for his hat trick converted by Ingleby.
But it was another stunning forwards' try that closed the match and the season for Spalding. Ash Piccaver was stationed away from the breakdown as the ball was pinged out to him by Shields and Adams, using his athletic build to its advantage, Piccaver burst through a couple of desperate tackles by Belper and ran clear of the defence from 30 metres to score with Ingleby again converting.
Some brilliant rugby played, built upon a team effort in this match and for the first time in three years no relegation to a lower league with survival only having been secured in the last match of the season.
Team: Pete Smith, John Barrett, Jacob Greaves, Kev Hudson, Ash Piccaver, Harry Cole, Jason Steels, Harry Brown, Richard Cooke, Dan Adams, Gav Sharman, George Brown, Willis Ingleby, Ashton Capes, Fin Peters Subs Liam Adams, Ben Shields, George Berry.