Hoppers 2nd XV 10 Caldy 2nd XV 16
The second team suffered their first defeat since losing at Macclesfield in the Spring. Caldy edged an attritional affair that was dominated by two excellent defensive units. Hoppers came flying out of the blocks and exerted all the early pressure. The Preston scrummage, which was dominant throughout, made a mess of a Caldy scrum and Young’s men were camped on their opponents line. Preston showed ambition and looked to put width on the ball but a deliberate knock on prevented a certain try. The referee had no alternative but to award a penalty try and Hoppers were 7-0 ahead.
Caldy saw little of the ball in the first fifteen minutes but began to exert some pressure. However if truth be told Hoppers were guilty of playing too much rugby in their own half and the men from Paton Field benefitted. As in previous weeks Hoppers penalty count began to rise although Caldy spurned two kickable penalties in the belief that they could drive over from the line out. The home defence prevailed and the excellent back-row of Napier, Wallace & Gale won a succession of turnovers.
Caldy then went extremely close after a Hoppers knock on allowed them to counter attack. However the Preston cover defence was good and the Caldy winger was penalised for not releasing just short of the Hoppers line. At half-time Hoppers led 7-0, but their superiority at the set piece and willingness to run the ball had not presented them with the tries their efforts deserved. Credit should go to the Caldy defence though as it was strong throughout.
Caldy started the second half in perfect fashion as their scrum half capitalised on some shoddy Preston line-out work. The Hoppers defence was unusually slack as he dashed in from twenty metres out to score a converted try. Young’s men struck back immediately though as they made a mess of another Caldy scrum. The resultant penalty allowed Lewis Allen to slot home a penalty which gave Hoppers a 10-7 lead.
Crucially, the visitors had the wind at their backs and this suited their game plan which was based on the pick and drive followed by a kick and chase. One such kick saw the Preston back three fail to clear their lines and Andrew Pollock was adjudged to have picked the ball up in an offside position. For the indiscretion he received a yellow card, but more crucially a Caldy penalty tied the scores at ten points a piece.
Caldy then took the lead as another kick behind the Hoppers defence resulted in the referee awarding a penalty. The Caldy kicker made no mistake and the visitors were ahead. Preston were now chasing the game and despite the wet conditions they continued to push for what they hoped would be a match winning try. Caldy’s defence held firm and another kick deep into Hoppers territory resulted in a penalty for holding on. The penalty stretched Caldy’s lead to 16-10 and it turned out to be a match winning margin.
Caldy fought hard for their victory although Hoppers will be hoping for drier conditions when the two teams next meet. The soggy conditions suited Caldy’s game plan and they executed it to good affect whilst Hoppers ambition did not reap the rewards of previous weeks. Overall it was a good day for the club as the first team succeeded where the second team failed and comprehensively beat the men from the Cheshire.
Despite the reverse Hoppers still top the table thanks to their vastly superior points difference. Caldy are in second place with perennial title-chasers Macclesfield in third place. Hoppers have a tough fixture away at Chester next weekend but remain confident that they can return to winning ways. Young’s men know that two more wins will see them top the table before it splits into the two conference format.