Fitton Fit’s In as Spartans Win at Olds Ed’s
Spartans 2nd XV got their league campaign off to a bright start on a miserable autumn day against Nuneaton Old Edwardians.
Despite a couple of late call ups to the first XV Spartans travelled to Nuneaton with a nice balance of experience and youth with a strong first XV named for the first of this seasons Warwickshire Division 2 matches.
John Lewis, Andy Fitton and Harry Owen started in the front row with Danny Wayne and Ally Eyre in behind. Spencer Kite returned to the side on the openside flank with Tim Barthram switching to blindside and Mathieau Gassey at Number 8. Matchday Captain Andy Harrison started at scrum half with familiar partner Joe Madden at 10. Luke Spears and Tom Wayne populated the midfield with an exciting back three of Daryl Williams, Cam Holland and Brett Garbett.
Substitutes included Mark Baines, Luke Rostrom, Richard Gill, Jamie Humpage and Matt Preece.
After a decent warm up it’s fair to say there were some nerves flying around as Spartans lined up against a relatively unknown opposition having not crossed swords with Nuneaton Old Ed’s 2nd XV for a number of seasons. With some ‘big old lads’ preparing to chase the kick off Spartans prepared for battle and looked to secure a first league win of the season.
The kick off fell to fly half Madden who pumped the ball down field and deep into the opposition half to settle the first touch nerves. The resulting lineout gave Old Ed’s the chance to run at Spartans following a neatly executed catch and drive, Spartans defence held up well but the home side were clearly full of running as they crashed hard into the black defensive wall.
Early exchanges from both sides were tight, neither team relinquishing much in defence and the as the added complexity of a torrential downpour forced Harrison and Madden to control the game with the boot, doing so to good effect. A big kick into space had Williams haring up the wing making a solid tackle on the backtracking defender before executing a perfect counter ruck, leading to a penalty. Nudged into the corner, this allowed Fitton to expertly find Barthram before the pack started rumbling forward. Out of nowhere Harrison sniped down the blind channel and darted over in the corner for one of his trademark Scrum Half tries.
This was closely followed by a score of similar distance. A scrum in midfield saw Madden and Spears combine to break down the wing, a 40m carry from Spears moved the visiting side into excellent field position before runs from Gassey and Kite got them within scoring distance. Similar to the first try Ally Eyre popped up out of nowhere to exploit a gap in the narrow defence, charging over for Spartan’s second try.
Old Ed’s then responded with one of their own after Spartans fell off a couple of first up tackles on the powerful home forwards, one of which resulted in Kite leaving the pitch with concussion and being replaced by Rostrom.
A third try from Spartans was inevitable though as they began to play some really nice rugby. Wayne this time making the initial break following some nice interplay in the backs before winning a penalty against the home defence. Another nudge in the corner led to an excellently organised lineout catch and drive, this time Gassey the man steering the ship and dropping over for a converted score.
As half time came Spartan’s were feeling positive with some cracking rugby being played, despite the poor conditions, an added boost came in the form of Gill, Humpage and Baines replacing Madden, Williams and Gassey, a demonstration of the strength in depth at the club presently.
The second half kicked off with Old Ed’s clearly demanding an improved performance from themselves as their big runners and pacey centres came into the game more and more. Some sustained pressure resulted in a home try bringing the score to 17-14 and suddenly a lot closer than Spartans wanted.
Fortunately some stunning handling from Gill, Humpage and Holland saw the full-back fly down the far touchline from 40m to touch down under the sticks and extend Spartan’s lead to 10 points.
Field position was now vital as the rain came down hard and the forward pack were doing a good job in the tight, carrying the ball well and dominating at the scrum giving the half backs chance to use the ball with good effect. A series of quick penalties moved the visitors into good field position and again it was a score from the tight channels as Spears, now playing in the back row, darted over to score. Wayne converted to move the score to 31-14.
Despite Old Ed’s throwing the kitchen sink at Spartans and enjoying some prolonged spells of territory and possession it was the men in black who got over for the last, and arguably the best score of the game. Mark Baines gave the platform after he stripped the oncoming ball carrier and popped the ball out the Harrison. He found Preece, who had joined the action on the right wing, who jinked and stepped his way down into the opposition half. The support play was excellent as the forwards powered ahead with ball in hand, Wayne and Lewis leading the way. The ball was recycled as Garbett screamed overlap from the opposite touch line, Gill picked out Wayne whose miss-pass found Fitton in the wide channels. He drew his man and spun the ball to Garbett who tore through the gap, stepping outside the full back to touch down in the corner for a superb team try.
This brought an end to a fantastic game of rugby, played in dreadful conditions. Spartan’s will be delighted with a first league victory away against tough opposition and will need to be well prepared for the return fixture.
Nuneaton Old Ed’s 2nd XV 14 – 36 Spartans 2nd XV
Wayne x 2
Spartan’s get straight back into league action next week as they travel to last season’s winners Newbold 3rd XV, the twos will be keen to put on a performance as Newbold ran out convincing winners at Coppice Lane earlier this year.