Spalding Rugby Club beat Bugbrooke in Counties 1 Midlands East (South)
A hat-trick of tries from Conall Mason helped Spalding get back to winning ways on Saturday.
The Elephants were 29-8 winners over Bugbrooke at Centenary Park with Mason leading the try spree.
With a number of players injured or not available, colts James Holland and Sam Christie started on the wings together with second team player Jack Asplen, making his first start alongside newcomer Fergus McKerracher.
They formed the lock partnership with Jim Wraith who normally plays scrum half switching to blind side flank allowing Adam Sutcliffe to resume at his preferred position.
Despite the changes, Spalding started with confidence from the kick-off, forcing Bugbrooke onto the back foot deep in their 22 and poor handling resulted in a scrum awarded to Spalding in front of the posts.
A dominant scrum pushed Bugbrooke backwards and Sam Cowell, playing number eight for a change instead of front row, picked up and drove over the try line for a simple conversion for Mason and Spalding had a seven point lead after five minutes.
The visitors settled into the game and play was end-to-end with both sides having penalty kicks with Bugbrooke slotting theirs over but Mason just failing after battling a strong wind.
Shortly afterwards a high tackle on centre Gav Sharman saw Bugbrooke’s winger yellow carded.
Spalding were trying to spread the ball wide to the two young wingers, both having the confidence and speed to worry their opposite numbers.
With both defences on top, Willis Ingleby kicked over Bugbrooke’s defensive line and Mason won the chase for Spalding's second try.
The referee was keeping a sharp eye on any infringements and, when hooker Miguel Da Silva clashed heads, it was reassuring that the official correctly applied the new high tackle law against the ball carrier for dipping into the tackle in open play.
With half-time approaching, Spalding’s forwards, with good pick and goes by Luke Turner and Ben Shields, had field position deep in the visitors half.
A quick pass by Sutcliffe to fly half Ingleby opened a gap and Mason benefitted with a strong run to the try line and, with a good conversion, Spalding had a 16-point advantage at half-time.
Rather surprisingly early in the second half, Spalding’s scrum was having problems in the front row.
The wind had strengthened in the second half and Bugbrooke took advantage, kicking deep to pin Spalding back in their own 22 for a long period and testing full-back Ryan Firth with high balls.
But their defence held strong under the pressure with McKerracher leading the tackle count helped by both the colts wingers who were not afraid to pitch in.
Eventually, having weathered Bugbrooke's storm, Spalding established a position deep in the visitors half and a good line-out take by Shields saw Bugbrooke infringe on the five metre line as the home side drove forward and a quick tap penalty by Ingleby saw him over the try line.
With 10 minutes remaining, another of the up-and-coming colts players, Callum Ferguson, came off the bench, replacing James Holland on the wing and shortly afterwards Ryan Medlock came on for Sutcliffe.
With full-time approaching and Spalding back dominating possession, Mason helped himself to his third try of the afternoon.
With this win Spalding remain in seventh place, one point behind Bourne in the league but with games in hand. Their next match is away at Oakham on Saturday, January 6.
Spalding: Tom Parker, Miguel Da Silva, Luke Turner, Fergus McKerracher, Jack Asplen, Jim Wraith, Will Shields, Sam Cowell, Adam Sutclife, Willis Ingleby, James Holland, Conall Mason, Gav Sharman, Sam Christie, Ryan Firth. Subs: Macaulay Crane, Callum Ferguson, Ryan Medlock.