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Home > News > Preston Grasshoppers 14 - Fylde 12
Your News Preston Grasshoppers 14 - Fylde 12

After controlling a fiercely contested first half and leading by 12-3, Fylde lost their way in the second period and Preston Grasshoppers ground out a hard working and attritional 14-12 win in increasingly dismal and damp conditions at Lightfoot Green.

Fylde had by far the more dangerous backline but struggled as the game went on to win sufficient quick possession in order to take advantage. 'Hoppers played a deliberate and limited 10 man game plan which exploited their excellent, scrapping pack which was never tamed by the visitors. As the conditions deteriorated along with Fylde's discipline, two penalties by full-back Marcus Jackson in the last fifteen minutes sent the home crowd into raptures as his side closed out the game.

An even opening five minutes saw Fylde press inside the ‘Hoppers half but they over threw a lineout ball and allowed the home side to clear their lines with the first of several excellent box kicks by their scrum-half Darren Wilson.

‘Hoppers forced their way down field and a high tackle by a Fylde defender allowed their fullback Marcus Jackson a chance to convert the subsequent penalty. Although Jackson’s kicking wasn’t that convincing all afternoon, he converted this one and gave his side a 3-0 lead.

Fylde tried to use their speedy backline whenever possible and on 13 minutes the ball reached winger Oli Brennand wide out on the left. He shimmied past Darren Wilson’s despairing tackle and raced along the touchline past another couple of defenders to score a trademark try in the left corner. This was the National Three North leading try scorer’s 14th try of the season. Flyhalf Steve Nutt’s worthy attempted conversion from the touchline drifted just past the right hand post but his side had a 5-3 lead.

Three minutes later, in one of several furious close quarter exchanges, Fylde lost debutant prop Ross Davies as young referee James Fisher brandished the first of three yellow cards. Jackson missed the consequential penalty from distance.

‘Hoppers were unable to take much advantage of their extra man as the Fylde forwards dug deep. More of a setback for the visitors was the loss through injury of influential scrum-half Craig Aikman after 20 minutes and he was replaced by Martin Wallwork.

Some strong running by Fylde no 8 Sam Beaumont, impressive throughout, put his side on the front foot but they were unable to capitalize against a determined ‘Hoppers defense. When the home backs tried to move the ball they looked unimaginative and didn’t threaten the Fylde line.

On 35 minutes ‘Hoppers tried again and their backs went left, centre field and inside the visitor’s half. Fylde’s Nick Royle, who was making his first start in two months following a bad ankle injury when on loan to Sale Sharks, moved off his wing and spotted the telegraphed pass by the ‘Hoppers centre. He made the interception and raced clear for a 55m breakaway try with no chance of anyone catching the quickest player in the division. Nutt converted from in front of the posts and his side had a 12-3 lead at the interval. Whilst they were never in total control, Fylde deserved their advantage and looked well capable of extending it in the 2nd period.

However, a major setback for the visitors was the loss at the break of England Academy centre Jordan Davies with a rib injury. This wasn’t a good afternoon for the youngster as he had lost his way to the ground and had arrived with namesake Ross only 20 minutes before kick-off.

Davies’ injury was particularly disrupting as Fylde had already introduced their only back replacement, Wallwork, when Aikman went off earlier. Flanker Dan Palmer took an unfamiliar right wing position as Royle moved inside to centre. Although Preston’s laboured backs were unable to exploit this weakness, it caused Fylde all kind of problems in their alignment when ‘Hoppers had possession.

After only two minutes of the 2nd half a curious moment put ‘Hoppers right back in the match. Their durable hooker Ritchie Sands picked up a loose ball 30m out from the Fylde line. Players on both sides for some reason seemed to freeze as Sands went straight through the Fylde defence with hardly a hand laid on him. Only in the last seconds did a visiting player tackle him but it was too late as he crashed over for an extraordinary try. Jackson’s attempted conversion from wide out fell short but his side had reduced the deficit to 8-12.

The next player to get on the wrong side of referee Fisher was ‘Hoppers Darren Wilson and he spent 10 minutes cooling his heels on the touchline. Steve Nutt’s penalty attempt drifted wide and what turned out to be a vital opportunity had been lost.

Rather than exploiting this advantage, Fylde lost it a few minutes later when during a driving Fylde maul, their skipper Roger Banks was sinbinned for allegedly stamping on a prone ‘Hoppers forward. With Banks departure went the visitors composure as Preston turned up the heat through their forwards.

By now heavy drizzle has enveloped the ground and ‘Hoppers relished the conditions. As their confidence grew so Fylde’s error rate escalated and their discipline deteriorated. After 67 minutes one of their forwards came into a ruck from the side and Jackson converted the subsequent penalty to bring his side within a point of their visitors.

Unlike ‘Hoppers, Fylde were not playing percentage rugby. A mix up in their backline after 70 minutes allowed Hoppers’ Phil Whyte to hack the ball forward and a Fylde player was found guilty of impeding the centre. The penalty kick from in front of the posts 30m out was straightforward and Jackson held his nerve to give his side the lead for the first time since the 13th minute.

Despite some desperate huffing and puffing in the last 10 minutes, Fylde were unable to get inside Preston’s 22m line. A long series of pick and drives tried to suck in the Hoppers defence and tempt the home side into an offence but unlike the visitors they maintained their discipline. Time simply ran out and ‘Hoppers players were delighted when the referee blew the final whistle for a deserved win. They had played to their strengths and had won the tactical battle in the miserable conditions. This was a major blow to Fylde’s attempt to put pressure on the two leading clubs, Caldy & Nuneaton. They will have to regroup over the Christmas & New Year holiday in time for the visit of Leicester Lions to the Woodlands on January 3rd.

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