Caldy 2nd XV 30 Hoppers 2nd XV 34
The second team’s victory over Caldy can only be described as a curate’s egg of a performance. The result guaranteed that Young’s men top the preliminary table before the Bateman Premier League splits into two conferences in a fortnight’s time. However they failed to make the most of a dominant start and finished the game nervously hanging on and in real danger of their first defeat of the season.
Preston dominated the early exchanges on a cold but bright afternoon at Paton Field. The pack in particular threatened to run their hosts ragged, shoving Caldy backwards at every scrum whilst crossing the gain line with pleasing regularity.
Sam Whyte opened the scoring after one such set piece saw the home side in deep trouble under their own posts. The young scrum half finished well after some smart work by number eight Chris Taylor. A few minutes later another big Hoppers scrum had their opponents reeling and centre Oliver Farley slotted the resultant penalty to add to his earlier conversion.
The league leaders maintained the pressure and Caldy had barely ventured out of their own half. Another penalty resulted in another dominant scrum and Taylor was afforded time and space to touch down for a converted score. With the match barely twenty minutes old Hoppers had raced into a 17-0 lead and it looked as though second place Caldy were in for a long and chastening afternoon.
Preston may have been guilty of taking their foot of the gas as some uncharacteristic sloppy play saw Caldy break into Hoppers territory. Young’s men defended manfully and Jack Walker suffered a concussion but the referee felt that Hoppers had transgressed at the breakdown. The home side kept the ball alive and created numbers on the right to score in the corner.
Hoppers dominance was then negated when a Caldy prop decided that he was unfit to continue and left the field for the changing rooms. The home side were, somewhat unusually for the Bateman Premier League, unable to provide a front row replacement and the change meant that the scrummage would continue on an uncontested basis.
This appeared to lift Caldy as their back line were able to operate under less pressure, whilst Preston’s concentration was definitely disrupted. Caldy continued to apply some pressure although a number of mistakes from the visitors helped their cause. The men in black and yellow then reduced the arrears with a penalty and the score was now 17-10 to Hoppers as the sides broke for half time.
Young’s men regained some focus at half time and the first action of note saw Yates hit a nice line which allowed the pack to recycle for Rhodes-Powers to score a good try in the right corner. Full-back Yates quickly became the villain as some loose play gave Caldy a foothold in the right corner. The home side breached the line for an unconverted score but were definitely back in the game.
Preston appeared to take offence at Caldy’s efforts and mounted a powerful maul from a lineout on the twenty two. Caldy managed to hold the drive up but Taylor made no mistake from the resultant scrum. Moments later Yates atoned for his previous error by slicing through the Caldy back line for a well worked score. Farley added the extras and with Hoppers leading 34-15 it seemed like The leaders had secured another comfortable victory.
Caldy ensured a nervy finish as their outside centre outpaced some lame Hoppers defence to score an unconverted try from his own half. Preston seemed rattled and began to fall off their tackles whilst Hurst was sent to the bin for trying to slow down some ruck ball. Caldy spread the ball wide and their winger crashed over in the right corner for another unconverted try.
Things went from bad to worse for Young’s men as the big outside centre scored another fine try, running in from distance once more. With just a couple of minutes left Hoppers led 34-30 and were in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. When stand off Mark Murray scuffed the resultant restart Caldy pressed hard for victory and it looked as though the home side were going to complete the unlikeliest of comebacks.
However Young’s men showed great fortitude in defence as they repelled Caldy’s efforts to hang on for their twelfth victory of the season. The relieved squad headed back to Lightfoot Green with a flea in their ear and will spend the week preparing hard for next week’s match against Birkenhead Park.