In a tense, highly competitive low scoring game, Spalding came out on top to go marching through to the Final of the National RFU Vase Cup, Midlands Section. The visitors Buxton are old adversaries from last season, who currently are lying joint second, having been the pace setters earlier in the season.
A boost to Spalding was the return of Ash Piccaver, at lock, having been injured since the first game of the season, back in August and with Captain Dan Adams able to select a very settled team confidence was riding high. However Spalding have never progressed further than this stage in a national cup competition, having lost to Wheatley Hills RFC, Doncaster fifteen years ago in the semi final.
The game started with both teams playing conservatively keeping the ball in the forwards trying to retain possession, whilst both team’s defences were closing down space, cutting out any ambitions to play open running rugby
There were a few encouraging signs for Spalding as Buxton were penalizes several times allowing fly half Willis Ingleby to kick for touch gaining territory. With Piccaver jumping at the front and Ash Ankar to the rear of lineouts good possession was being won for scrum half Ben Shields to use. However Buxton’s lineout was also as effective.
Similarly both scrums seemed to be fairly equally matched and with centres Dan Adams and George Brown relishing the physical tackles, Buxton’s ambitions to spread the ball out wide to their dangerous wingers was being limited, but when put to the test left winger Matty Holmes put in a crunching tackle on his opposite number and full back Conall Mason was effectively sweeping up.
Spalding were relatively in control, with the back row of Harry Sharman, Ryan Chappell and Harry Cole being a constant threat with their forceful carries but Buxton were holding firm and by half time neither team had scored
However all changed within a few minutes of the restart. Spalding were pressing deep into Buxton’s territory with their defence closing down space. Sharman and Anker made good carries and with Shields pass out to Willis allowed him to put in a chip kick out wide and right winger Ed Booth swept in to open the scoring
Spalding’s scrum was now gaining the upper hand, with the front row of Jacob Greaves, John Barrett and Luke Turner, giving everything. Buxton’s scrum was in retreat and a turnover was conceded. But to Buxton’s credit they came back at Spalding and had a good spell for 15 minutes. What was noticeable, was how well the home team were communicating and helping each other to plug any gaps. They effectively shut Buxton out and never threatened Spalding’s try line.
Rob Lucas replaced Shields at scrum half to bring his experience to bear. Buxton missed a penalty kick. Spalding with a penalty kick by Mason were denied by the crossbar and post.
Having weathered Buxton’s comeback efforts, Spalding were back pressing deep in the visitor half. Willis was again instrumental in opening up their defence with his run and pass over the top of Buxton’s defence to Booth out wide, to run in, scoring his second try and a significant lead of 10 points. Next, Chappell a couple of metres from the try line was stopped only by the strength of a double tackle by Buxton defenders and then Booth was denied his hat trick by a knock on. By now Spalding’s front row were completely exhausted from their efforts and Miguel Da Silva was on with fresh legs replacing Cole.
Finally, referee, Nic Bisset, who had had an excellent afternoon, blew his whistle and Spalding players and supporters celebrated
Hooker, John Barrett, said “it was a really competitive game but we always felt in control, whilst Captain Dan Adams was over the moon with the team effort, shutting out Buxton and seizing their scoring opportunities. Ash Anker was also equally delighted with his Man of the Match performance.
The Final,(Midlands Section) will be against Dunstablians who had a narrow win at home against Stockwood Park.
Team Jacob Greaves, John Barrett, Luke Turner, Ash Anker, Ash Piccaver, Harry Cole, Ryan Chappell, Harry Sharman, Ben Shields, Matty Holmes, Dan Adams, George Brown, Ed Booth, Conall Mason Subs Rob Lucas, Miguel Da Silva, Will Cole