DUDLEY KINGSWINFORD 13 PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 18
Hoppers made it four wins in a row with this hard-fought victory, finishing strongly to edge out determined promoted opponents trying desperately to come to terms with life in National 2 North.
Head Coach Michael Lough praised the home team’s ‘proactive’ start: “They set off well and had us on the back foot and, for the first 50 minutes, we were tactically naïve and weak in the set pieces, again conceding too much turnover ball. But we defended well, were up at half time and conceded only one try, despite the pressure. With several personnel changes, we could have folded but we came back well and, with the bench changes working well, lifted our game, stayed on our feet and sustained pressure closed out the game.”
Truth to tell, it was a scrappy game, not helped by a couple of heavy showers which produced numerous handling errors and the opening home onslaught was rewarded with just a three-point penalty after 13 minutes.
Hoppers’ re-jigged backline struggled to produce any fluency although there were some good individual touches and an excellent break and interchange of passes between centre Jack Ward and Kilian Wallace put the flanker under the posts, Sean Taylor converting.
Hoppers began to get more into the game but were unable to turn field position into points and conceded a series of penalties, allowing kicker Bown to add another three points to bring his side within a point, 6-7 down at the break.
At the restart, Dudley K again put the pressure on, dominating up front but squandered a two man overlap with a wild final pass. Eventually the defence was broached and full back Fletcher ran in unopposed, the conversion putting the home side 13-7 ahead.
This seemed to jolt Hoppers’ pack out of their lethargy and, as the home defence tired, the backs produced a number of line breaks. Anthony Elliott’s break put Taylor over but the final pass was forward and the full back had to settle for a penalty to reduce the arrears after 57 minutes.
Phil Baines then created room for Taylor but a fine last-ditch tackle again prevented the touchdown while Karl Fitzpatrick was next to get clear but lost his footing just short of the line. But Hoppers’ pack were now on top and, after a number of determined drives had been repulsed, the defence cracked and Conor Murphy strolled over in the 64th minute before Taylor’s second penalty in the final minutes secured the win.
As a result, Hoppers are up to 5th in the table and next Saturday host bottom club Huddersfield, so far without a win.