Preston Grasshoppers 17 -34 Sedgley Park
Preston Grasshoppers ended 2016 with a disappointing defeat at Sedgley Park.
The loss at Park Lane means that Hoppers end the year sitting bottom of National League 2 North.
Hoppers head coach Garth Dew reflected:
“I’m very disappointed with the whole performance. The first-half was embarrassing, and while I commend the turnaround in attitude in the second-half, it came too late.
“We gave ourselves four or five quality chances to score in the second-half but only took two of them, which is why we’re bottom of the league.
“We now have a needed two-week break, and when the lads come back they have to be prepared to work very hard, and hopefully our new pitch will give us a fresh start and some impetus to turn the season around.”
Hoppers conceded after just 90 seconds, when Richard Lepori finished off a simple Sedgley handling move and touched down out wide.
Three minutes later, fellow winger Andy Riley crossed the whitewash, with both tries coming against some lacklustre Hoppers defending.
Two yellow cards then saw Hoppers reduced to 13 men, with Sam Gale and Ally Murray being penalised for making high tackles, and Sedgley bagged their third try after 15 minutes.
Johnny Matthews touched down from a driving line-out, with Matt Riley converting.
Matthews and Andy Riley both scored again to give Sedgley a commanding 29-0 lead.
But in the half’s last play, Hoppers got on the scoresheet.
Sedgley failed to deal with Lewis Allen’s restart, and the bouncing ball was collected by Matt Garrod, who made significant ground and offloaded for Chris Roddy to touch down.
Hoppers had the momentum at the beginning of the first-half and created plenty of front-foot ball, until Max Skofic crossed the whitewash from a driving lineout to put Sedgley 34-5 ahead.
Two yellow cards for the hosts then put Hoppers back in the contest, with strong ball carrying from the Hoppers pack earned them a good field position.
With the backs growing in confidence, Tom Forster broke the gain line and his delicate pop saw Jack Swarbrick finish a nice move, with Allen converting.
Hoppers had their third try when Chris Taylor then scored after Phil Mills bounced off the Sedgley tacklers and offloaded for Taylor to breeze past some lacklustre defending.
The game’s final quarter was scrappy, with Hoppers desperately trying to get within losing bonus-point distance of their opponents, while Sedgley were happy to wind the clock down by keeping the ball in their pack.
Ultimately, despite a gallant effort, Hoppers came away from Park Lane pointless in their final game before a two week break.
Pictured above is Jack Swarbrick who scored on his 1st XV debut against Sedgley Park.
By Henry Woodsford