MATCH VERDICT: Spalding lose home heartbreaker to league leaders Loughborough
Spalding are still without a league win after letting a 14-0 lead slip at the hands of Loughborough at Memorial Field.
The well-known footballing cliche of “a game of two halves” applied to Town whose dominance of the first half was only matched by the amount of pressure they were put under in the second half.
Life looked very different for the Elephants after six minutes when thriving young winger Adam Castle, in his first season of senior rugby, teased the Loughborough forwards before handing off to flanker Ash Piccaver who scored in the corner.
Fly half James West kicked the conversion to put Spalding 7-0 up as the Boro onslaught showed no signs of having arrived in South Holland.
On the half-hour mark, Castle made his friends and teachers at Bourne Grammar School proud as he capitalised on an imperfect pass from Loughborough to intercept and run in unchallenged to increase the Elephants’ lead to 14-0 after another conversion by West.
But in the last ten minutes of the first half, Boro bared their teeth with a series of plays that tested the Spalding back line almost to breaking point.
Centre Adam McHugh and skipper Harry Winch, wearing the arm band in place of injured club captain Harry Brown, were responsible for two of the tackles that kept Loughborough out of the in-goal area during the first 40 minutes.
However, a Thomas Kirkby penalty was the only reward for the spell of sustained pressure as the half-time whistle blew, with Town in a 14-3 lead.
But Loughborough are league leaders for a reason and the roles were reversed in the second half, even with Spalding back to 15 players when prop Sam Cowell came back from being sin-binned for collapsing the scrum.
Just five minutes into the second half, Boro captain James Busby went over for a try from five metres out after Town were penalised for offside and winger Tom Kirkby converted to put the visitors four points behind.
The wet weather and tricky ball-handling conditions meant that the next try would effectively seal the game as both sides spent long periods confined to the middle of the pitch.
Boro number eight Jack Percival thought he had put the leaders ahead when he tried to touch down in the corner, but a combination of Adam McHugh and Castle did enough to ensure that Percival put a foot into touch.
However, there was no rescue act from a missed tackle by the Elephants as Stephen Sands peeled off a midfield scrum and raced clear to score after a 50-metre run, Whitby kicking the conversion.
Spalding salvaged a bonus point for keeping the margin of defeat below seven points, but McHugh’s words were perhaps the most accurate summary of why his side lost.
McHugh said: “We let them (Loughborough) do what they wanted.”
SPALDING: Hutson, Caley, Cowell, Watts, Haighton, Piccaver, Templer, Cooke, Shields, West, G. Sharman, Winch, McHugh, Castle, Douglas. Subs: Turner, Bailey, H. Sharman.
LOUGHBOROUGH: Duffus, Salmon, Gunton, Page, Grice, Lee, Crampton, Percival, Busby, Chuqi-Cruz, Pearson, Biddle, Hewgill, Kirkby, Sands. Subs: Ryan, Harvey.
TRIES: Piccaver, Castle (Spalding); Busby, Sands (Loughborough).
CONVERSIONS: West (2), Kirkby (2).
In Midlands Four East (South), Bourne suffered their first defeat of the season after a narrow 20-14 defeat at Wellingborough Old Grammerians.
Meanwhile, Deepings were unable to give their full back Aram Jones a birthday present on the rugby pitch as they lost their PE6 postcode derby at Thorney 17-5.