Walsall 9, Spartans 13.
In a fixture that would have been unimaginable until recent times, Spartans again defied history, tradition and experience for the second time in a good contest between these two sides this season.
With the wind and snow combining to provide blizzard conditons, winning the toss was significant and the game began with both sides sizing each other up as another tense encounter began to develop. As Walsall faced the blizzard, cold hands and a wet ball saw plenty of knock-ons from both sides, and the older, wiser and more streetwise Walsall forwards looked to control things. Spartans had other ideas, but running rugby was nearly impossible and although they shaded territory with the wind behind them, Spartans could not break the solid Walsall defence. As the first half ticked by neither side was going anywhere, but Spartans broke the deadlock with two penalties from the reliable boot of Tom Hardy. A rare venture into Spartans territory saw Walsall land one of their own, and a three point lead at half time looked nothing like enough for the visitors.
The second half began with a rampant Walsall using the wind to good effect as they sought to level the scores, but once more stray passes and loose boots maintained the status quo. Spartans were well organised in defence and proved able to tackle the direct approach by the home side, giving the scoreboard operator a nice rest for the first twenty minutes despite play firmly stuck in the Spartan half. Eventually the inevitable happened and Walsall levelled things with a penalty in front of the posts, but from the kick off Spartans broke upfield and defied the elements to stay put. A clever kick saw everyone except the referee convinced of a Spartans try, but to add insult to injury Walsall went back downfield to grab the lead with a penalty. Incensed, the Men In Black fought back and used their small forwards well to secure both possession and territory, and after some exceptional play by young Edward Lambert they used their pick & drive to cross for the only try of the game. An excellent conversion from wide out by Tom Hardy left Walsall needing a try, and go for it they did. Walsall sought to power through and over their hosts for the last ten minutes, and as the tension mounted the thin black line was stretched to the limit. As the intensity crept up the home side threw the kitchen sink, washing machine and tumble dryer at Spartans but the Men In Black were sensing another upset and managed to keep the home side at bay with some suicidal defence. Surviving two penalty advantages five metres off their own line as Walsall searched for a try, a massive effort by everyone in a black shirt finally saw the referee blow his cold and frosty whistle and much to the relief of many tired Spartans it was game over.
Life doesn't get any easier this week as a bruised and battered Spartans travel to second placed Crewe & Nantwich.