Hoppers 2nd XV fall short to neighbours Fylde in a closely fought contest.
The American author, H. Jackson Brown Junior wrote in his New York Times Best Seller; ‘Life’s Little Instruction Book’, that “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you have no control over its direction”. Reflecting on the game, I couldn’t think of a more pertinent phrase that summed up the post-match feeling.
After last week’s win at Chester, the mood in the camp was buoyant and with neighbours Fylde coming to visit, anticipation was high. With Fylde recording strong victories so far, Hoppers relished the contest. Regardless of the movement of players to and from the 1st team squad, Hoppers 2s still fielded a strong, confident and talented side. Alas, the lack of discipline in key areas proved to be too costly and they were punished with a galling loss.
From the kick off, Fylde came at the Hopper’s defence with some hard running, trying to find the weaknesses in wide positions. Some strong defence from Hoppers kept Fylde from rarely breaking the gain line, however the home side just couldn’t get a hold of the ball and retain much needed possession. With the ball finally in hand Hoppers pressed wide, looking to use the pace and strength of wingers Swarbrick and Yates, but the Fylde defence were able to close the space quickly in the midfield, stifling Hopper’s ball. After the loss of Andrews to injury on 9 minutes, hooker Newsham unwaveringly stepped up to the front row, put in a titanic performance at Prop and, with the help of Tuff and Burns, the experienced Fylde front row found life very difficult indeed.
Fylde pressed again and, from the back of a lineout, broke the deadlock with an unchallenged run from the flanker touching down under the posts. The conversion was effortlessly scored and the visitors led 0-7.
Hoppers regrouped and obviously angered by their poor defending, lifted the tempo and attacked the Fylde line directly. Pushing into good field position, centre Berry burst through a huge gap in the visitor’s line, precipitating the Fylde full back into an unexpected seated position. A penalty was awarded to hoppers after Berry was finally tackled, however the kick went wide.
Hoppers ill discipline started to affect the game with three penalties turned over by the referee for ‘Backchat’ and ‘Afters’. This was disappointing as Hoppers had gained good ground and pressured well, wasting good opportunities for strong attacking platforms. Fylde then had their prop dismissed for 10 minutes after showing some ill discipline of their own.
Soon afterwards, Tom Hurst had the Fylde try line at his mercy, but play was stopped and pulled back for an injury to Banks. The returning Gage replaced the Lock. A Hoppers try came soon after, with some direct running and phases giving Proctor the opportunity to score. With the conversion good, Hoppers were level 7-7.
Hopper’s injury woes were increased just before the break with the loss of Wardell who was replaced by Whyte who moved straight to full back. This pushed Reddick to inside centre as Berry valiantly moved into the second row. Hoppers finished the half 7-7 with the frustration that for ill discipline, the score could have been in the home side’s favour.
The second half started as the first did, Fylde retained the lion’s share of possession but, with Harry Reddick and Tom Hurst leading from 12 and 13 respectively, the defence was nothing short of tremendous. Hoppers reduced their ill discipline, worked hard to regain possession and threatened the Fylde line. The game was well in the balance with the Fylde defence repelling attack after attack.
Fylde again broke the deadlock, turning the ball over and counter attacking down the left wing Wilkinson was sent inside to finish well under the posts. The conversation was good and Fylde led 7-14 with 17 minutes to go.
With a switch of Whyte to scrum half, Hulme to wing and Yates to full back, Hoppers looked to freshen up the back of the breakdown and bring Yates into the game more directly. This paid off with Yates receiving a kick in his own 22 with which he counter attacked with a scintillating run which ended with a tackle on the Fylde 5m line. Hoppers recycled quickly allowing Proctor to pop a delightful ball to ‘second row’ Berry who touched down. The conversion scraped the post on its way wide. The visitors retained their lead 12-14.
In the final minutes Hoppers pressed and looked dangerous, hitting hard direct lines. They came close before a Fylde transgression gifted a penalty that Hoppers chose to run, resulting in a turn over and the final whistle. The game finished 12-14 to the very relieved visitors.
Reflecting on the game coaches Tiernan and Steel simply felt it was a missed opportunity. Regardless the focus is now on next week’s contest away to Vale where hopefully, the Octopus will be barefooted.
Preston Grasshoppers 2nd XV 12-14 Fylde Hawks
Team: Andrews, Tuff, Burns, Banks, Wardell(c), Walker, Clitheroe, Proctor, Hulme, Forster, Swarbrick, Berry, Hurst, Yates, Reddick
Replacements: Whyte, Gage, Newsham