Hoppers 2nd XV 46 Fylde 2nd XV 14
Hoppers completed a clean sweep over neighbours Fylde with a comfortable victory at a wintry Lightfoot Green on Friday night. However it was not enough to see the Blue & Whites retain the Bateman Premier League Championship.
Young’s men started strongly and their early pressure saw Andy Napier power over down the right hand side. Ollie Farley slotted the conversion before quickly adding a penalty and Hoppers were 10-0 ahead. Some decent pressure from the visitors saw the ever dangerous Curtis Strong score a fine try which Simmonds duly converted.
Hoppers came back well and scrum-half Tom Smith darted over from the base of another fine scrum. Farley missed the extras and the home side were dominant at the set piece yet the industrious Danny Booth and tenacious Steve McGinnis were defending well for Fylde, ensuring that the breakdown was a fiercely contested affair.
Strong added his second converted try and Hoppers had the slenderness of leads at half time. Preston came out firing in the second half whilst replacements Berry and Moulding had a positive impact upon proceedings. Both sets of players started to get a bit tetchy and the referee did well to keep a lid on some heated moments. Olly Farley added another penalty and Hoppers led 18-14 before both sides encountered the wrath of the referee who went to his pocket.
This seemed to spur Hoppers on and they overpowered Fylde in the remaining quarter. More good work by Andy Napier saw Chris Gale power over for a converted score. Fylde tried to ease the mounting pressure and looked to run out of defence but a chip over the top went horribly wrong as Farley added to his points haul with a try of his own. Preston had scored 17 unanswered points and another victory over the Claret & Ambers had been secured.
Mark Murray, who enjoyed an outstanding second half then exploited a huge gap in the Fylde defence to glide over for another try which Farley duly converted. The home side weren’t finished there, as with a minute to go Russ Flynn produced a delightful flick out the back door which saw Irish winger Andy Pollock score. That man Farley slotted another outrageous conversion and Hoppers had scored 31 points without reply in the second half to run out 46-14 winners.
So congratulations go to Macclesfield who won the Bateman Premier League by virtue of their superior points difference. Young and his men are disappointed yet can be proud of their efforts as they have enjoyed a better season than in their title winning campaign. Hoppers have lost two games since the season began which is one fewer than the new champions whilst they also beat them twice down at Priory Lane. Unfortunately the Easter weekend proved crucial and Hoppers were unable to bridge the gap that Macclesfield had built against a severely depleted Burnage side.
Young’s men still have one fixture remaining though as they meet Caldy in the Raging Bull Cup Final down at Wilmslow Rugby Club on Saturday after own. Hoppers haven’t won the trophy since 2006 and know that victory would compensate for their league misfortune. Kick off is scheduled for 3.30pm and the lads would appreciate as much support as possible. A preview and team news will follow later in the week.