Spalding Rugby Club are defeated by league leaders Daventry
Spalding were edged out after a contest of the highest quality against Counties 1 Midlands East (South) leaders Daventry on Saturday.
The table-toppers took their limited opportunities for a 10-14 victory after a contest which either team could have won with Spalding just falling short with their opportunities.
With both teams arriving early at Centenary Park in preparation for the game, you could feel that this was going to be a highly competitive afternoon. especially with Daventry riding high while Spalding had some scores to settle from previous defeats.
With a good home crowd in support along the touchlines and a firm pitch, Spalding kicked off and immediately both team's defences were cutting down space and the tackles were flying in.
George Brown, on his return to the team on the flank, was gaining territory with some big carries alongside captain Luke Turner setting the tone.
Daventry were well organised and, with powerful runners, it would be a testing afternoon especially for Spalding's centres Conall Mason and Jack Patrick.
A superb 50-20 kick by Willis Ingleby gave Spalding a lineout deep in Daventry’s 22 and lock George Douglas, soaring high, won possession, which he continued to do all afternoon.
Daventry's defence was taking a battering and finally Spalding were awarded a penalty which was well converted by Mason and a three-point lead had been established after a quarter-of-an-hour.
Competition was becoming intensive, especially at the breakdown, and the referee had to call the two captains together to talk to their teams for late tackles.
Shortly afterwards Ash Ankar, on his return to the side after a few weeks out, took a knock to the head and was replaced by Miguel Da Silva.
With half-an-hour having elapsed, Daventry finally gained field position and their big forwards made inroads and drove over the whitewash but Spalding defenders prevented the ball being touched down with a resulting drop clearance kick from behind the goalline.
With the half-time whistle blowing, Spalding had become the first team this season to prevent Daventry from scoring in the first half and their narrow lead meant it was all to play for after the break.
The first 10 minutes are always important and it was Daventry who stepped up their game.
Quick to the break down, followed by players arriving with good carries, they gained valuable territory and Spalding were on the back foot.
Pressure told and the visitors drove over the try line and, with a successful conversion, had a four point lead three minutes into the second half.
Although Daventry had a heavier pack, Spalding's scrum was going well and scrum half Adam Sutcliffe was able to get the pass away, giving the option to Ingleby to kick for territory or set the backs running.
Both teams missed kickable penalties as the tension mounted and Ed Booth, on his return after four years away abroad, replaced fullback Ryan Firth.
Both teams were having success turning the ball over at the breakdown and centre Mason was exceptional on the day.
From a kickable penalty, Spalding went for the lineout and a good move along the backs created a potential overlap on the wing but the final pass to Ben Shields failed to go to hand and opportunity was missed.
Minutes later a drive by Spalding's forwards was held up over the line and it was then Daventry through their forwards who doubled the score with a converted try with 10 minutes remaining.
Spalding showed their determination to get back into the game and they were awarded a series of penalties as Daventry defended in their 22.
Jack Grundy, with several thrusts, broke Daventry’s tackles and Spalding were two metres short of the try line.
The forwards were in control of their rucks as they edged forward, but Daventry were defending for their lives.
Instead of continuing through the forwards, they opted to release the ball to the backs who were hunted down and the opportunity was lost.
Spalding came again, helped by some dissent from Daventry who conceded a further 10 metres.
Sutcliffe whipped the ball out to Ingleby who, instead of passing, angled a superb arching run from 10 metres out to glide in and, with Mason converting, Daventry's lead had been narrowed to four points with three minutes remaining.
However, Daventry showed how to play out time, retaining possession successfully to demonstrate why they are league leaders.
The scoreline could easily have been the other way but, in the red zone, Spalding failed to take their opportunities while Daventry converted two out of three.
Spalding are now in seventh spot in the table, ahead of Saturday's trip to sixth-placed Old Laurentians.
Spalding: Ash Ankar, Tom Rollinson, Luke Turner, George Douglas, Fergus McKerracher, George Brown, Will Shields, Jack Grundy, Adam Sutcliffe, Willis Ingleby, Ben Shields, Conall Mason, Jack Patrick, Gav Sharman, Ryan Firth. Subs: Miguel Da Silva, Sam Christie, Ed Booth.
After last week's shock heavy defeat away at Horncastle, Spalding's second team were back to winning ways with an excellent 52-5 victory at Stamford College Old Boys on Saturday.