Preston Grasshoppers 5th XV vs Bolton 4th XV
Grasshopper’s 5th team welcomed Bolton to a somewhat damp and quagmire-ish Preston having already faced each other in the cup, which had resulted in a Bolton victory. After a long run of improving performances and narrow defeats, this match was eagerly awaited as a chance to get that first win under the belt. Indeed the presence of ex-captain Bowden-Williams, attending his first match having finally returned from extended holidays, was perhaps the hint of TV celebrity the team needed to finally achieve their potential.
Bolton turned up for the game with only 14 players, so Gary Douglas automatically earned the coveted DoD award for spending the first 25 minutes in red.
The game itself started with Hoppers on the front foot; the forwards demonstrating the value of the improved teamwork and fitness from training, as well as the few (hundred) extra kilos they had over their opposition. Notable carries from Jackson, Nuttall and Gegieckas had the 5XV playing in the opposition 22. Within the first 10 minutes, three clear try scoring opportunities went begging, before a mazy run from Markland dragged in the defenders allowing a floated pass wide to Brezinskis, who was not going to be stopped so close to the line. Davies was unable to add the conversion from the touchline.
With the Bolton scrum going in every direction but forwards, Hoppers made it back into the opposition half, allowing stand off Ben Markland to convert several penalties to set up a solid lead. When Bolton did threaten they were beaten back by stern defence and commitment from all, an uncharacteristically sober Thomas Davies standing out for his relentless efforts before untimely injury ended his match.
Bolton did manage to take advantage of some poor organisation to score an excellent solo try as the intensity dropped somewhat. More fine work from the forwards set up promising field position. With Brezinskis missing out on the man of the match award last week, he was doing his best to reclaim it, crossing for his second of the night having received the ball with 6 still to beat. Unfortunately he joined Davies and Taylorson under the injury blanket soon after.
In the Latvian’s stead, Tom Anstiss laid claim to the MOM award for a succession of good carries, as well as the most successful run of line-outs seen in the history of the 5th team. Markland built on the lead with several successful penalties before replacements in the scrum allowed Bolton to get back into the game.
However, committed defence and smart gameplay from the backline kept their score limited, allowing Hoppers to see out the game for the first victory of the season.
Final Score: Hoppers 25 V Bolton 17