Preston Grasshoppers 2nd XV 46-0 Fylde 2nd XV
The second team opened 2012 with a dominant display against local rivals Fylde. The victory took Mike Lough’s men to the top of Conference A and represented the ideal preparation for next Saturday’s visit of league favourites Sedgley Park.
Hoppers started slowly and whilst they nearly scored from their first significant spell of possession the early indications were that they had over indulged during the Christmas period. However as the first half wore on the home side began to overwhelm the men from the Woodlands.
Their dominance was underpinned by an outstanding performance from the pack who ensured that Fylde were restricted to no more than a couple of forays into the Preston 22.
Tom Smith who was outstanding until a cracked rib cut short his afternoon opened the scoring with a well struck penalty. Shortly after, more patient play by the Preston pack presented Smith with another opportunity and Hoppers were 6-0 ahead.
Fylde, who were strengthened by first team regulars Depledge and Ferguson rallied briefly. However their attacks were restricted mainly to counter attacks which were precipitated by their pacy full-back.
Man of the match Alex Austin then ripped the ball out of Ferguson’s grasp before beating a couple of would be tacklers and galloped in from 30 metres out. With the conversion, Hoppers led 13-0 and the game was theirs for the taking.
Substitute Chris Todd then scored with his first touch after some typically robust play by Russ Flynn, who at times, seemed to revel in treating the visiting defenders like nine-pins.
Austin then scored another fine try in which he escaped four would be tacklers in a mazy run which began just inside the Fylde half. As Hoppers approached the break they enjoyed a comfortable 25-0 lead. The home side lost some momentum as Mark Irving was sin-binned along with his opposite number. The referee was left with little choice as a brawl ensued on the Fylde five metre line.
Hoppers came out intent on maintaining their dominance and Austin’s back-row colleagues Murray and Keenan repeatedly crossed the gain line. Lock Jack Banks also got in on the act with a 40 metre surge that nearly led to another score. Fylde regrouped but it wasn’t long until Hoppers added to their lead. Conway went over in the corner after some good build up play involving Austin and Flynn. However the highlight of the score was the slick hands from Mark Murray and Alan Haworth which gave Conway the space to finish.
The home side then set up a maul in the Fylde 22 when it seemed that their. I’ve had broken down. The platform allowed Manx-man Keenan to charge over. Flynn added the extras and Hoppers led 39-0.
Former Hopper Harrison Collins then led a Fylde break out and hacked through. He seemed destined to score but the ball didn’t bounce kindly enough for him to touch down. The visitors then enjoyed their only real sustained spell of pressure. However the Hoppers defence, which has been a key feature of their season, held strong. This was typified by Flynn’s bone-crunching tackle on Ferguson who spilled the ball and gave Hoppers the chance to counter.
Ally Murray then started and finished the move which capped off another a fine performance. Having burgled a Fylde line-out he then popped up out wide to score. Flynn added a very difficult conversion and Lough’s young side had secured a well deserved 46-0 victory.
News from Leicester provided a further boost and the spirit which exists between the wider squad bodes extremely well for 2012. Next week Hoppers welcome Sedgley Park to Lightfoot Green in what promises to be an extremely competitive encounter.
The photos below are used with the kind permission of Mike Craig.