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Spalding Rugby Club’s second team lose to Leesbrook in the NLD Merit Cup

Defeat was hard to take for Spalding 2nds in their NLD Merit Cup semi-final with Leesbrook on Saturday.

The Elephants went down to a 24-25 defeat against their Derby visitors after a controversial finish to the clash at Centenary Park.

Spalding had a conversion attempt to win the game late on and, although the kick appeared to sail high but curling between the posts in the wind, the referee over-ruled the linesman - who had originally indicated its success - to leave the home side trailing by one point.

In the first-ever meeting between the two clubs, there was a good level of support along the touchline.

Leesbrook opened up using their forwards with penetrating carries to gain territory and, at the breakdown, Spalding were caught not rolling away and the penalty kick sailed between the uprights for an early lead for the visitors.

Spalding responded and it was the visitors' turn to give penalties away at the breakdown and, with Will Pite soaring high in the lineout, the home team should have made more of their opportunities, especially after a good break by fly half Dan Adams.

But Leesbrook were sticking to their game plan, using the forwards to gain territory, and a try by the posts with a conversion extended the lead to 10 points after a quarter-of-an-hour.

With scrum half Rob Lucas pinning the ball out from the rucks, Adams made a good break to evade tackles and Spalding were up on the visitors' five metre line and, with a crash ball move, Bailey Hudson scored.

Spalding were now taking the game to the opposition with the scrum performing well, led by props Connor Broome, Tom Parker and hooker Tom Dunbar giving a good platform.

James Holland came off the bench and carved his way through defensive tackles to score and, with his conversion, Spalding had a two-point advantage.

Play was going from end to end and, with half-time approaching, Leesbrook took a quick tap penalty to charge over for their second try and a three point advantage.

The start of the second half saw two yellow cards for the visitors due to high tackles and Adams took advantage, breaking through several frail challenges to score and, with a successful conversion, Spalding were back in the lead by four points.

Action from Spalding 2nds' cup clash with Leesbrook. Photo: John Constable
Action from Spalding 2nds' cup clash with Leesbrook. Photo: John Constable

But instead of consolidating and kicking for territory, Spalding tried to launch a counter-attack, spreading the ball wide, in front of their own posts.

With a poor long pass out to Owen Coon on the wing, Leesbrook gratefully accepted the present to score for a lead of one point.

Shortly afterwards a sweeping move along the backs saw Leesbrook sail past several tacklers to increase their lead to six points.

However, with ten minutes remaining, there was still plenty of time and Spalding turned on the gas.

Threatening Leesbrook's try line, they battered away and, after several penalties had been conceded by the visitors, a try was finally worked out wide and Holland lined up the conversion kick.

The linesman indicated a successful kick but the referee overruled and Spalding were one point behind with about eight minutes remaining.

At the same time, the Leesbrook captain was red carded and then, very shortly afterwards, the referee blew for full time, much to the players and supporters' surprise.

For Spalding, it was a hard defeat to take, but this Saturday the Seconds are at home again and will be favourites to become league champions as they entertain Horncastle (3pm).

Spalding: Connor Broome, Tom Dunbar, Tom Parker, Macaulay Crane, Alex Whelan, Will Pite, Fraser Canham, Ryan Medlock, Rob Lucas, Dan Adams, Sam Hall, Harry Dean-Alen, Aaron Brundle, Owen Coon, Bailey Hudson. Subs: James Holland, Troy Davis, Will Daft, Thom Monaghan, Ben Bettison, Mark Batterbee, Bart Warwrzyniak.

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