Sedgley Tigers 2nd XV 36-15 Hoppers 2nd XV
The second team saw their title chances dented on Saturday as they succumbed to a disciplined and clinical Tigers side. Hoppers remain at the upper reaches of Conference A but their destiny depends on other results and they can ill afford any further setbacks.
The match started evenly and the Hoppers pack began to assert themselves although the Tigers back division looked dangerous. Hoppers had the chance to gain an early lead but Ward’s penalty drifted just wide. However it was the hosts who took the lead a couple of minutes later as Hoppers were punished for an accidental offside. Reliable kicker Tom Leader, who always seems to be in the thick of the action when these sides meet, punted the ball between the uprights.
Young’s men fought back and the Tigers hooker was sent to the sin bin for stopping Sam Whyte taking a quick penalty. Ward added the resultant penalty and the sides were level.
Parity did not last long as Preston were penalised for an offence at the lineout. Leader’s second punt of the day made it 6-3. Hoppers were giving away needless penalties whereas the Tigers were the more disciplined side. Another transgression and it was 9-3.
Things got worse at the restart when Marshall was sin binned for what was deemed to be an illegal tackle. Some observers felt it was a harsh decision and it was apparent that Hoppers faced a battle if they were going to replicate January’s convincing victory.
The Tigers had a handy lead without entering the Hoppers red zone but their first genuine attack saw them extend their advantage. Hoppers were struggling to deal with the Tigers centre partnership and some smart play from the pairing saw the winger score in the left corner. The extras were added and Hoppers were 16-3 behind.
Hoppers supporters were scratching their heads as Young’s men were dominant in the scrum, had parity at the breakdown and had probably shaded possession. However the blue and whites could not maintain any meaningful pressure or create any genuine scoring opportunities.
This was compounded when some sloppy defence allowed full-back Leader to break from his own twenty two. The expert goal kicker made it into the Hoppers red zone before offloading cleverly to ex-Fylde man Curtis Strong. The young back touched down for a converted try and things already looked terminal for Hoppers.
Young’s men then spurned a huge opportunity to build some pressure but their penalty was needlessly reversed. The Tigers cleared their lines and Hoppers trailed 23-3 at the break.
Hoppers were playing up the hill in the second stanza and hoped for a vast improvement in both performance and fortune. The Tigers aren’t champions for nothing and were willing to see the game out without committing needlessly to the breakdown whilst punishing any errors that Hoppers made.
Five minutes in they did just that as the visitors made a hash of clearing their lines. The Tigers countered and scored all too easily in the left corner. Leader’s kick was short but it was the ideal start to the second half for the men from Park Lane.
This at least spurred Hoppers into action as some excellent running by Browne and Robinson created some front foot ball for award to exploit. The young stand off caught the Tigers’ defence napping with a brilliant kick which Moon gathered before touching down. Ward added the extras and at 28-10 there was some faint hope for the hearty bunch of supporters who had travelled down the M61.
Rather than capitalising on their good work Hoppers let the Tigers extend their advantage once more. The home side secured some good field position before driving over a driving maul which followed a well executed lineout. The conversion hit the upright but Hoppers may be disappointed with how they defended the maul when they come to view the DVD.
Hoppers seemed to be doubling up on their errors and the Tigers seemed to be the smarter and more ruthless side. As a result Young’s men fell someway short of the performance level they were dearly hoping for.
They did though breach the Tigers line again following some excellent work by Mark Murray. His fine run sent Ward over for a try although he as unable to add the extras on this occasion.
Hoppers had enough time to make it interesting but the Tigers managed to keep them at arms length. Dom Moon was then sin binned for a high tackle, it was a the act of a frustrated rather than malicious player who doubtless realised that victory was beyond his team.
The home side increased the pressure, looking for the coup de grace but some robust defence from Ward ensured that Hoppers cleared their lines. The passage of play also led to a yellow card for Tigers’ Chris Leader. The official lost patience with the flanker for a number of transgressions and decided against any further action despite being subjected to some choice language by the departing player.
Sedgley did add to their score a couple of minutes later, adding another three points. Hoppers meanwhile did finish strongly but the pass to Robinson wasn’t accurate enough.
The Tigers thoroughly deserved their victory and Young’s men will be disappointed with the result and much of their performance. However they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves and will prepare for next week’s rearranged visit of Caldy. It’s a must win match as Hoppers cannot afford any slip ups between now and the 25th April.