CALDY 30 PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 23
Hoppers’ unbeaten run came to an end at Caldy as the home side launched a strong onslaught in the second period to claim all 5 points. The visitors were without some key players as three forwards were involved with the North U.20s, a predicament worsened by the late withdrawal of lock Gareth Gore.
Head Coach Michael Lough commented: “It obviously made a difference since we were forced to field a make-shift second row and we struggled to get good possession from both scrum and lineout. But when we did get the ball, we failed to put more than a few phases together and coughed up possession too easily. On the day, Caldy were hungrier and deserved to win.”
Sean Taylor kicked a penalty in the opening minute, cancelled out immediately by home kicker Vasey. Hoppers then lost their first lineout and the home side enjoyed a period of sustained pressure but, just as a score seemed inevitable, Matt Hughes intercepted near his own line to sprint in at the posts and Taylor added the extras.
This lifted Hoppers’ spirits as, first Jack Ward made a clean break in the centre, only for the final pass to go astray but then a run and deft offload from prop Dan Madden put Craig Aikman in for a well-worked try. Taylor’s conversion put his side clear at 17-3 with 22 minutes on the clock.
Caldy needed to react to keep in touch and mounted a series of attacks, spurning two kickable penalties to kick for the corner and the tactic paid off as hooker Rylance touched down from a lineout drive.
The kick failed but the home side were back in the game and their cause was helped when prop Rich Morton was sin-binned and again the choice was for an attacking lineout. After a drive for the line, the ball was released for wing Dickinson to touch down in the corner and a successful kick reduced the deficit to just 2 points.
Hoppers had the last word, however, as Taylor landed a 45-metre penalty to give his side a 20-15 lead at the break but the lead was soon lost as home prop Parker intercepted on halfway to show a surprising turn of pace to race in at the posts and the extras put the home side in front for the first time.
Referee Hoskins, who had a somewhat indifferent afternoon, then issued to more yellow cards, first to home centre Kohler for a second offence balanced by another for Hughes.
More necessary tinkering with Hoppers’ pack put them under increased pressure and another lineout drive put Rylance in for his second to increase the lead and the respective kickers exchanged penalties before a final promising attack from Hoppers ended in a knock-on which summed up a frustrating afternoon.
Below are a selection of photos from the game kindly provided by Mike Craig.