Spalding Rugby Club are beaten by Vipers
Spalding failed to build on the momentum of a half-time lead as they went down to a 12-17 home defeat against Vipers on Saturday.
The Elephants had clawed their way back into the Counties 1 Midlands East (South) clash to take a two-point lead into the interval.
However, their Leicester visitors registered the only score in the second half with a converted try to send Spalding to their fifth defeat of the season.
The match had all the hallmarks of a tight and competitive game with Vipers arriving just two points clear of Spalding in the league table.
Fielding a strong-looking team including the substitutes' bench, the only notable absentees being captain Luke Turner due to injury and Jack Patrick, there was a certain amount of confidence around Centenary Park.
However, Spalding fluffed the kick off and soon gave away a penalty with Vipers kicking for a line-out.
With possession secured, Vipers' number eight was over the try line for an unconverted try after four minutes.
The visitors settled down with a clear tactic of kicking deep into the corner, forcing Spalding to play out from inside their 22 and, with muddy conditions, handling was proving challenging.
Vipers' tactics were rewarded with a 50-20 kick, giving them line-out possession and their forwards were putting Spalding under pressure.
Finally the ball ran loose and, as Spalding tried to hack it clear, it landed with Vipers' centre who gratefully ran through for their second try.
As soon as Spalding established any territory, they were being turned around by Vipers' fly half's astute tactics in the conditions and using the cross wind to kick deep.
Spalding were trying to bring their backs into play and centre Conall Mason broke through Vipers initial defence from 30 metres, evading further tackles to score an excellent try and, with his conversion, Spalding were back in the game.
Spalding were now taking the game to Vipers and a penalty against the visitors for some back chat saw a further 10 metres for a deep kick to touch. The line-out was won by Alex Worth with Fergus McKerracher and Jack Grundy making carries.
Fly Half Willis Ingleby, with a kick through, had Vipers' defence turning and prop Ash Anker forced his way over in the corner for an unconverted try and, at half-time, Spalding had a two point lead.
George Douglas replaced McKerracher in the pack, but early in the second half it was Vipers who grew in confidence as Spalding's running game plan faded in the conditions.
From a scrum, Vipers' forwards made some good carries with ruck possession near the posts and, with Spalding's defence slow to cover, the visiting scrum half was over the try line and, with an easy conversion, they had a five point advantage with 30 minutes still to play.
Disappointingly, Spalding were unable to force the game to play in Vipers' half and Miguel Da Silva and Gav Sharman came off the bench to add fresh legs.
With no further score, the visitors continued to have the edge having adapted far better to the conditions until the final whistle.
Spalding: Sam Cowell, George Brown, Ash Anker, Fergus McKerracher, Alex Worth, Reece Callaby, Will Shields, Jack Grundy, Jim Wraith, Willis Ingleby, Ben Shields, Conall Mason, Taylor Crowson, Adam Sutcliffe, Ryan Firth. Subs: Miguel Da Silva, George Douglas, Gav Sharman.