Spalding 16 Ilkeston 22
Three tries in under ten minutes proved decisive at the end of the first-half in rainy conditions at Spalding on Saturday.
With a much-changed side due to injuries and unavailabities, Dan Rollins took his opportunity to impress with his first start thisseason and Gary Andrzejewski and Simon Hallam both put in solid shifts off thebench.
A debut shirt was handed to youngster Jamel Mckenzie on the wing, although he only lasted ten minutes before being forced to retire with ahamstring injury.
Another debut was handed to Hutchinson who impressed with his defence and ball carrying despite playing his first game for over two years.
With skipper Adam Corcoran absent due to impending fatherhood and Isaac Taylor also not featuring, the Elks faced a tough challenge and went 6-0 down in the first quarter with the same ill discipline at breakdowns that has plagued them all season.
After 19 minutes, the referee had had enough and rightly gave a team penalty against the Elks for repeated offside at the breakdown and Tom Southall was the onesingled out to receive the team punishment, taking a ten-minute rest.
The travelling supporters were made to wait almost half-an-hour beforethe Elks attack started to pay dividends.
With Greg Taylor constantly probing all game at number ten, he finally got his breakthrough as he spun out of the tackle and ran under the posts, the try unconverted to bring the score to 6-5 in Spalding’s favour.
This also marked the return of Southall to the field and three minutes later Ilkeston crossed the line out wide following good work by Rollins at the lineout, Alex Ayers punching up the middle and quick ball released to send Jacob Heath over for another unconverted try to make it 10-6 to the Elks.
Four minutes later, Heath got his brace as a loose free-kick from Spalding was caught by Stevenson who made good ground and quick ball from the breakdown was spun wide right allowing Jack Partington torelease Heath into the corner for the Elks’ third unconverted try on the stroke of half-time.
The Elks defence had held firm all game against the Spalding attack.
Unable to penetrate the Elks’ open play defence, the two Spalding scores came from close line-out catch and drives, which wereintersected by a try from Tom Pottinger to settle the Elks nerves.
For the last half-hour of the game, the sun shone through but neither side could take advantage of the improved conditions and so the scoreline set on 53 minutes remained at 16-22 until the final whistle.
The solid Elks defence and work rate proved to be the difference, but the Elks face a much sterner test in the form of Bedford this weekend who visit the Stute with a 3pm kick-off.