GRASSHOPPERS SEE OFF THE TIGERS
PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 30 SEDGLEY PARK 10
Hoppers carried off the John Burgess Lancashire Cup for the third time in their history, beating National 1 club SedgleyParkcomprehensively in an open, entertaining game played at Fylde’s Woodlands Ground on Bank Holiday Monday, 7th May. Proud Coach Dave Baldwin said afterwards: “After the superb win against National 2 North Champions on the last Saturday of the season, this win was the icing on the cake. We just missed out on the play-offs this time and this game gave us the opportunity to test ourselves against opposition from the level above in a match with plenty at stake. We were sharp and inventive in attack and sound in defence and this sets us up to hit the ground running next season”.
Playing into a stiff breeze, Hoppers won the opening exchanges, especially upfront and, after 10 minutes, Josh Purnell poached the ball from a disrupted scrum to race to the line. Sean Long pulled the conversion wide but made no mistake when, three minutes later, Dominic Moon made the most of another turnover to put Matt Gargett in to put his side 12-0 to the good.
Under pressure in the tight, ex-Hopper No.8 Juan Crous was forced to pick up at the base of the scrum but Hoppers’ back row defence was up to the task and, when Long switched direction in mid-field Karl Fitzpatrick made the break and put the provider in for a spectacular try but the last pass was adjudged forward by the touch judge.
The Tigers at last enjoyed some possession and mounted a series of attacks but Hoppers’ defended the line and they had to settle for just a penalty from Tom Leader to get on to the scoreboard.
This acted as a spur to Hoppers and, after a long forward drive, Moon broke away to make ground and Long kicked an easy penalty. The No.8 continued his purple patch with another rampaging break from a scrum and, when the ball was recycled, Long varied the tactics with a pin-point cross kick which was skillfully knocked back inside by Phil Baines to the supporting Sean Taylor who put in Fitzpatrick to give Hoppers a 20-3 lead at the break.
No doubt after some lively discussion in the changing room, Sedgely threw everything at Hoppers at the restart but again they were frustrated by resolute defence. Their cause was helped when Long was shown yellow 9 minutes into the half and, making use of the extra man, they at last broached Hoppers’ line as prop Ben Black was driven over and Leader converted.
In the absence of Long, Taylor kicked a 35-metre penalty to stretch the lead and the full back showed his counter-attacking potential as, unable to break the line, Sedgley resorted to kicking for territory. Beating several would-be tacklers, he was stopped just short of the line but, almost inevitably, Moon was up in support to drive over. Long’s conversion virtually made the game safe, although, to their credit, Sedgley, continued to batter away at Hoppers’ line in the closing stages but effective and sometimes desperate scramble defence kept them out.
The photos below are once again provided by Mike Craig.
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