Billingham vs Preston Grasshoppers

Date: 18 November 2023

Billingham 24-38 Preston Grasshoppers

A ruthless first-half display saw Preston Grasshoppers beat Billingham 38-24 to pick up a second consecutive away win.

Hoppers were at their clinical best with tries from Jack Wilkinson, Tyler Spence, Ben Dorrington, Ciaran O’Donnell and a Jacob Browne double (pictured above), which saw them secure maximum points at Greenwood Road.

Preston had moved up to ninth place after last week’s demolition of Huddersfield and were looking for back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

The return of Wilkinson has added variety to Hoppers attacking set piece, and he continued his prolific try-scoring from a rolling maul within three minutes.

Hoppers continued their fast start with Spence finding space on the right wing and outpacing the host’s defence to double the lead.

Within a two-minute period, Preston lost both props, Jake Pope and Tom Guest, to the sin-bin, with referee Gavin Jones taking a no-nonsense approach to any high tackles.

But the visitors defied their numerical disadvantage, and Browne showed silky handling skills to intercept a stray Billingham pass in midfield to score under the posts.

Billingham upped their intensity and made the most of their extra men, which allowed Joe Ross to touch down in the right corner with Hoppers’ defence stretched.

The referee repeated his stringent officiating by showing yellow cards to Preston’s Will Hunt and the host’s Edward Graham before the break.

A lovely team move by Hoppers after Billingham missed touch from a penalty saw Dorrington go in under the posts for a bonus point to make it 28-5 at the interval.

The hosts narrowed the lead after Michael Winn profited from a clever line-out play from five metres out.

Jones’ proactive refereeing continued to John Padley’s dismay as he saw yellow on 51 minutes.

The North East outfit’s comeback was not to be halted, and Luke Armstong added another try after acrobatically evading the grasp of Rory Brand.

Browne’s pace was a constant threat for Hoppers, which saw him extend his side’s lead with an excellent finish from close range in the 62nd minute.

Ellis Causey was sin-binned on 65 minutes, and Keiran Clark showed his power to keep his team in the game by crossing the whitewash.

O’Donnell eased any Preston nerves with a late try minutes after entering the field to confirm another bonus point victory on the road.

Hoppers head coach Alex Keay was delighted with the way his side started the game.

He said: “I thought our first half was absolutely outstanding, we were just electric.

“A good win, moving nicely up the table, and if we keep picking up points, we’re going into the part of the table we want to be.”

Preston climbed to eighth with Wharfedale next weekend’s visitors.

Report by Ben Pitkeathly, picture by Mike Craig

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