Hoppers entered this fixture looking to maintain their early season form and consolidate their position at the top of the Bateman Premier division. This week’s opponents, Altrincham Kersal, came into the game also in good form with back to back wins to their name against tough opponents in Penrith and Lymm and were certainly not to be taken lightly.
Hoppers had made a few changes from last week’s triumphant team, with Mark Murray, Brad Tuff and Owen Mckenna returning and a debut being handed to UCLAN student Josh Purnell. Despite the slight change in personnel it was clear from the start that Hoppers would stick to their fast paced, enterprising style of play. It didn’t take long for Hoppers to get on the scoreboard with Mark Murray crossing the whitewash finishing off a lovely set play, and it wasn’t long after that Hoppers were celebrating again with Owen Mckenna scoring after Killian Wallace had sliced through the Kersal defence and sprinted 30 metres before offloading to the onrushing Mckenna.
Hoppers dominance in the set piece was clear even at this early stage with the younger of the Murray brothers, Ally disrupting the lineout and the Kersal scrum going backwards at a rate of knots. It was this dominance in the set piece which allowed Hoppers to score their third try with Oga Mabaya muscling over in the corner for a rare, but deserved try. Next it was Jack Walker’s turn to get in on the act. Walker playing in the unfamiliar role of scrum half, seeing a gap in Kersal’s fringe defence picked from the back of a ruck and ran 40 metres weaving in and out of despairing Kersal defenders. Succeeding this came the try of the day. Mark Murray made a fantastic break fielding a Kersal kick before a passage of play which saw nearly the whole hoppers pack touch the ball before hard running centre, Cameron Berry bundled over for his first of the day.
Before half time there was a second for Mckenna and Wallace also managed to to get himself on the scoresheet.
Preston Grasshoppers 2nd XV 38-0 Altrincham Kersal
Despite Hoppers’ clear dominance coaches Lough and Jebb still found areas of improvement including the not being aggressive enough in the breakdown. With this advice ringing in their ears Hoppers set off hoping to start the second half the same way they ended the first. And like the first half it was Mark Murray who opened the scoring before the diligent Andy Napier was rewarded with a try from a rolling maul. Then came Tuff’s turn to get in on the act. Lovely quick hands from Mark Murray found Tuff in space, finishing well for his long awaited first try in the blue and white of Hoppers. It was during this passage of play that Napier had to retire with a nasty looking eye injury and Jack Banks left the field with a “suspected broken ankle.”
Kersal by now had capitulated but Hoppers did not step off the gas with Mckenna completing his hatrick after intercepting just outside Kersal’s twenty two, and Berry scoring after a lovely weighted grubber kick from Purnell. Hoppers rounded the game off with a lovely move started on the right flank by new French recruit Charles Hostier and finished by young Ally Murray. A fantastic way for the young Murray to cap off another brilliant performance in a hoppers shirt.
With fantastic performances all over the park it’s difficult to single out individuals performances but credit must go to; Purnell whose vision and passing was a joy to behold, and the ever present Rich Morton who put in a lot of unnoticed hard work in tight allowing those around him to shine. Yet again another fantastic performance from the second team.
Preston Grasshoppers 2nd XV 83-0 Altrincham Kersal 2nd XV
Thanks go to Brad Tuff for compiling this report.