PGRFC 3RD XV 33 WEST PARK 2ND XV 10
A try in each half for Ryan Marshall coupled with an impressive overall team performance saw Hoppers 3rd XV run out 33-10 winners over West Park 2nd XV in a pulsating opening fixture at Lightfoot Green.
Hoppers forwards dominated from the off, providing a solid platform for their dangerous, free running back line. The first five minutes saw an electric Hoppers on the attack in the West Park 22. Controlled and intense scrummaging saw the Hoppers pack marmalise their West Park counterparts and Number 8 Stephen Lightfoot capitalised, picking up from the base and finishing with ease. Peterson slotted the extras. From the resulting kick-off, Hoppers continued to dominate possession. Clean ball from the break down resulted in a well-executed midfield move. It was orchestrated by Marshall, who found Peterson who scythed through the West Park defence showing fantastic upper body strength to finish under the sticks. Peterson again added the extras to extend the lead to 14-0. After more pressure from the Hoppers Pack, a third try from the impressive Marshall extended Hoppers lead to 19-0 within the first twenty minutes.
Credit must go to West Park whose heads did not drop after such a frantic start. Their efforts were soon rewarded. Moments before the away sides first score, Hoppers were reduced to 14-men when replacement Number 8 Heath George was yellow carded after being on the field for 24 seconds, the referee citing recurrent team ill-discipline at the break down. After sustained pressure in the Hoppers 22, West Park chipped away at Hoppers early lead, reducing the deficit by five points with a try just reward for their forward play. With the extra man advantage along with added impetus, West Park continued to push forward. A fluid passage of play through the back line saw West Park’s winger finish in the corner, ending a fantastic half of rugby.
Half time – Hoppers 3rd XV 19 – West Park 2nd XV 10
Hoppers returned from the Lightfoot Green sheds much better than their St. Helens counterparts and decisive running from Hoppers centres, Berry and Taylorson combined with the ever dangerous Flanagan, began to pierce holes in the West Park defence. George returning from the sin-bin proved decisive, linking well with Marshall down the blind-side, allowing Marshall to score his second of the match.
Hoppers were now leading 26-10 and with the improved game management, dominant Hoppers scrum and impressive ball retention, West Park were staring down the barrel of an opening day defeat.
Hoppers continued to press, and were duly rewarded when rotund, Scottish born Jones finished from close range amongst a sea of bodies rounding off an encouraging opening display from the Hoppers 3rd XV. Although the coveted Man of the Match award could have been awarded to any number of Hoppers forwards, young George Wilkes scooped the prize on debut after a dogged tackling display at flanker.
Final Score – Hoppers 3rd XV 33 – West Park 2nd XV 10
Reporting from the row, Jamie Best