Spartans 27, Walsall 14.
By Jonathan Pritchard
In a fixture that would have been unimaginable until recent times, Spartans defied history, tradition and experience in a first ever first team contest between the two sides.
Preceded by a respectful minute's silence for The Fallen, the game began with both sides sizing each other up and a tense encounter began to develop. Walsall clearly had an older, wiser and more streetwise set of forwards in front of some strong centres and lively wingers, but Spartans were well organised in defence and able to tackle a direct approach from the visitors. The scoreboard operator had a nice rest for the first twenty minutes as play stayed in the middle of the field, but Spartans broke the deadlock when a suspiciously forward looking pass ended in the hands of Matthew Southam who raced home to score. Walsall fought back and used their experience well to secure both possession and territory, and eventually used their pack to drive over and level the scores. The game ebbed and flowed as a rare still day at Coppice Lane allowed opportunities to run rather than kick, but Spartans gratefully accepted a penalty from some Walsall indiscipline and Tom Hardy split the sticks for a half time lead of three points.
The game of chess began again in the second half as Walsall sought to power through and over their hosts, whilst Spartans looked to counter attack when possible. As the tension mounted chances for either side were few and far between, but the visitors conceded both a converted try then an outrageous drop goal from Tom Hardy to increase the gap. Both sides turned to the bench as the intensity crept up, and some positional shuffling saw Walsall change their game. Strong running and good support saw a fine try scored, and it was back to a one score game for the final quarter. The Men In Black were sensing an upset and managed to keep the visitors in their own 22 with some remarkably sensible rugby, and a massive effort at scrumtime saw the referee race under the posts for a penalty try. Walsall showed their class by hitting back, but time waits for no-one and much to the relief of many tired Spartans it was game over.
This week Spartans travel to Warwickshire friends Southam for a cup tie. (2.15pm).