Hoppers 2nd XV 34 Caldy 2nd XV 8
On a fresh yet sunny afternoon at Lightfoot Green the second team comfortably saw off the challenge of Caldy to keep the pressure on leaders Macclesfield and maintain their quest for back-to-back titles. The victory was underpinned by a strong Preston pack who dominated the breakdown, harassed the visitor’s lineout and (most impressively) destroyed the Caldy scrum at will.
Centre Oliver Farley opened the scoring after just three minutes with a well-taken penalty after the visitors were penalised following a big Preston scrum. The early score gave Hoppers a foothold from which to dominate possession and once they started putting some phases together they started to reap the rewards. Mark Murray, playing at stand-off, danced over from close range with Farley adding the extras. Hoppers now had a ten point lead and another close contest between the sides was already seeming unlikely.
Just two minutes later and Preston were 17-0 to the good. Full-back Reddick leapt like Lebron James and took a testing high ball before countering deep into Caldy territory. The UCLan student fed Sam Gale who drew his man before sending Anthony Elliott over on the left. Farley again made sure it was a seven point score and Young’s men already seemed to have the points in the bag.
However credit to Caldy as they fought back well and showed why they can justifiably consider themselves to be regular contenders for the Bateman Premier League title. The men from Paton Field countered from half way and won a penalty near the Preston posts. Overall Hoppers defended their line well but some slack tackling on this occasion allowed the Caldy outside centre to jink through for an unconverted try.
Preston had the last word of the half though as some more dominance at the scrum ensured that they finished the half camped in Caldy territory. Farley kept the scoreboard ticking over with his second penalty and Hoppers turned round 20-5 ahead.
The rest appeared to galvanise the visitors and a penalty reduced the arrears to twelve points but from that point the Preston pack really began to take charge. Two enormous scrums had seen the home side bulldozing their way towards the Caldy line and the men in black had been penalised for illegally trying to repel the blue and white tide. Wallace went for a third set scrum and a third Preston try seemed inevitable. With the Caldy pack scattering like ninepins and his pack charging towards the line Wallace picked and was heading towards the line. However his hopes were dashed as the referee penalised the home side for collapsing and Caldy were able to clear their lines.
Young’s men weren’t to be denied and proceeded to score the try of the game. Farley made a huge break from his twenty two and with Preston there in good numbers Murray ghosted through a gap before offloading to Ollie Yates who like all good wingers had tracked the break. The young winger fed the returning Tom Smith who scored under the posts. With the conversion Hoppers led 27-8.
The Caldy hooker left the field and the match went to uncontested scrums thus reducing the edge somewhat. Preston would have the last word as Anthony Elliott charged down a Caldy clearance before retrieving the bouncing ball to score an opportunist try. Farley’s conversion meant that Hoppers had secured a well deserved 34-8 victory against a gallant Caldy side who’d won when the teams met in a Lightfoot Lane mud bath earlier in the season.
The result sets the second team up nicely for their big trip to Macclesfield in two weeks time. As things stand they trail the men from Cheshire by three points, knowing full well that but for twenty seconds of defensive madness against the leaders, they would top the table.
In other results Macclesfield overcame Chester whilst Fylde overwhelmed Sedgley Park. Fylde are emerging as dark horses and will surely have a say in the destination of this years title as they play Macclesfield this weekend and have two games against Hoppers to come. Preston meanwhile have this Saturday off but will spend the week preparing for the clash on March 2nd.
Please follow the link below to a set of photos from the game taken by Steve Beattie.