Chester 2’s 7 Hoppers 2’s 29
The seconds came from behind against a determined Chester side to maintain their unbeaten away record and secure a top two finish before the league splits in December.
Hoppers started slowly and probably made more mistakes in the first half an hour than they had all season. Chester were intent on disrupting Hoppers’ game plan and defended their lines well. As a result the men from Lightfoot Lane struggled to assert their usual dominance and fell behind midway through the first half. The ball went loose in midfield and the Chester second row pounced before galloping in from about 25 metres out.
This seemed to wake Lough’s men from their stupour and they began to keep hold of the ball and give their backs some decent ball. The game changed with about ten minutes of the half left when the Hoppers pack retained possession for the best part of 20 phases and camped themselves in Chester’s 22. Hoppers knocked on but made a real mess of the home side’s scrummage and from the resultant reset Connor Murphy powered over for his obligatory score. The scores were tied at 7 points a piece and the Hoppers pack were well and truly on the front foot with Irving, Steel, Murphy and Murray at the forefront of their good work.
Shortly before the break scrum-half Matt Conway won a turnover and released the backs who put the ball quickly through the hands. Matt Gargett had plenty of work to do but burned his man on the outside for a great score. As the second half got underway Hoppers were well on top and began to overpower their opponents. Chester then transgressed at a ruck deep inside their 22 and Mark Edwards slotted the ball over.
The returning Cameron Berry then scored under the posts after Hoppers drove from a line out and went through several phases. At 22-7 Hoppers had the game won and would have been hoping that Stockport could do them a favour. However table-toppers Sedgely Park sneaked home by four points and remain top with one fixture remaining until the league splits.
Hoppers would have hoped to build a far bigger score but their hopes were frustrated when Chester were unable to provide a front-row replacement. With the scrums now uncontested Hoppers lost a bit of momentum and Chester were focused on damage limitation. Young colt Anthony Elliott did manage to provide a final flourish with arguably the try of the match. He received the ball around half way and left three defenders trailing in his wake to score a fine individual try. Edwards added the extras and Hoppers victory was complete.
There is no league fixture next weekend but Hoppers travel to Altrincham Kersal in the first round of the Raging Bull Cup. Hoppers managed 83 unanswered points against the same opposition back in September but will be fully focused on booking their place in the next round. There is no question of the fixture being taken lightly and the squad will be training hard this week.