Fylde Hawks 5 Hoppers 2nd XV 15
The second team overcame atrocious conditions at The Woodlands to earn a thoroughly deserved victory against their fiercest rivals. The win ensured that Hoppers remain at the top of Bateman Premier League whilst maintaining their recent dominance over their counterparts in the claret and gold.
The Arctic blast which hit the North West saw the match played in near blizzard conditions and the icy wind meant that both sides struggled to play their usual brand of attacking rugby. However it was the Gale force of brothers Sam and Chris who played a prominent role in what was a dominant performance by the Hoppers pack.
Young’s men played into the stiff wind in the first half yet their hosts failed to utilise the advantage which the inclement conditions would undoubtedly give them. Hoppers put in a manful defensive effort although the home side opened the scoring on twenty five minutes. Hawks stand-off Simmonds sent a probing kick into the Hoppers twenty-two which was smartly finished by Holliday. However much of the first period was an arm wrestle in which the two sides tried to assert their control.
Towards the end of the period the champions started to build some pressure and were camped on the Fylde line. The Hawks appeared to have held out as they won a scrum but a failed clearance fell into the arms of Tom Smith who gathered well and scored what would be a crucial try right on the stroke of half time.
The seconds, who were cheered on by a brave contingent of Hoppers fans, started the second half strongly and their forwards began to assert their dominance over the Fylde pack. The Hawks were restricted to counter attacks but the Preston back line marshalled their dangerous opponents brilliantly. As a result Young’s men began to turn the screw and Fylde began to concede territory and penalties. Hoppers made them pay when Ollie Farley put them ahead with a well taken penalty. The visitors led 8-5 and stand-off Mark Murray was using the wind to his advantage with a series of probing kicks deep into Fylde territory.
Given the weather clear cut chances were hard to come by but a moment of inspiration from Murray led to the decisive score. The Preston pack had been knocking on the door and the fly-half waited in the pocket, ready to drop the crucial goal. However he feigned his kick and powered through the home defence ably assisted by three of his team mates. They drove over the Fylde line and with Farley’s conversion Preston had a 15-5 lead.
Young’s men kept their hosts at arms length and the final score did not really reflect the quality of the performance. Hoppers had overcome a host of selection problems and dreadful weather, whilst some of the chatter on social media had even suggested that Grasshoppers were well below Hawks in the food chain. Despite the satisfaction gained from such a crucial result Hoppers have neither the time or inclination to rest on their laurels as they face a mammoth test away at Chester next Saturday. Having already overcome their opponents three times this season they will approach the match with confidence but given that Chester’s first team have a week off it is likely to be a testing afternoon.