Preston Grasshoppers 27 Caldy 15
Hoppers home campaign got off to flying start with a well deserved victory over Caldy. Head Coach Dave Baldwin was ‘impressed with the intensity and aggression shown in the first half’ and was ‘pleased with the improved performance on last week’.
The ability to handle to torrid conditions was key in a first half display that will bring plenty of optimism for the coming season. Hoppers picked up a try bonus point with four well taken tries from the backs who were in sparkling form and could have added to their try haul. The physical and imposing pack Caldy had plenty of success in the tight but were unable to match the flair and invention of the hosts and certainly did not dominate in the way they would have expected.
Hoppers started brightly and could have scored twice in the opening ten minutes only for a forward pass and heavy kick into goal to deny them. The try did come on 14 minutes after good work in the tight, Hoppers forwards sucked in the Caldy defence and the back were able to capitalized on the space provided to put Matt Hughes in for the first of his two tries, Graham Holroyd added the extras.
Hoppers increased their lead mid way through the half when young scrum half Nathan Fowles, putting in a man of the match performance, was able to steal the ball from the base of a Caldy scrum and showed good pace and power to run in from the 22.
Caldy got on the scoreboard with a Richard Vasey penalty just before the half but Hoppers were able to extend their lead before the break. With the visiting crowd shouting for the ball to be kept alive Caldy kicked aimlessly down the middle and Hughes returned the ball deep into the 22, Mark Rigbye provided great support acting as the link to put Sean Taylor in untouched under the posts. Holroyd was successful with the conversion and Hoppers took a 19-3 lead into the break.
Hoppers wrapped up the bonus point just minutes into the second half, a bout of aerial ping pong was ended by a good break from Taylor down Hoppers left flank combining well with Phil Baines and Tom Hughes before Karl Fitzpatrick’s pinpoint cross kick was collected by Matt Hughes, who beat his man and crossed for his second try.
Caldy tried to force their way back into the game and were rewarded with two tries on ten minutes as the forwards took the game to Hoppers. Gavin Roberts was the spare man after the pack had sucked in the home defence following a penalty kick to the corner and good pressure from the forwards and with little over ten minutes to play Nick King powered over to give the home crowd a nervous finish but Hoppers never looked like conceding another try and were able to wind most of the clock down in Caldy’s half with good ball retention and good defence. Holroyd added a late penalty put the game beyond a doubt and Hoppers were able to claim all 5 points.
15 Sean Taylor 14 Matt Hughes 13 Tom Hughes 12 Karl Fitzpatrick 11 Phil Baines 10 Graham Holroyd 9 Nathan Fowles 1 Chris Lowden 2 Allen Martindale 3 Mark Irving 4 Alistair Atkinson 5 Mark Rigbye 6 Matt Charter (c) 7 Will Bordill 8 Dominic Moon 16 Oga Mabaya (1) 18 Mark Philips (7) 19 Brad Tuff (2) 20 James Smith (9) 21 Russell Flynn