Chester 48 – 37 Preston Grasshoppers
In an entertaining game at Chester’s Hare Lane, Hoppers’ return to League 2 North started with a sharp wake-up call.
A penalty from the home side’s Tom Holloway who then converted Andrew Oakden’s try, saw them 10 – 0 down inside three minutes of the kick off.
Chester continued this early pressure, creating problems for the backs and gaining good ground with long, high kicks from inside their half. Hoppers forwards then started to gain some possession and were awarded two penalties confidently kicked by new number ten Tom Davidson. Chester responded, competing vigorously at the breakdown, dominating the line out and repeatedly driving the visitors back resulting in a converted try for Mike Craven.
A Hoppers penalty took them into the corner and a line out. The subsequent drive resulting in a scrum and push over try for Matt Lamprey. From the restart a break from Ollie Trippier, gained Hoppers a penalty and had the forwards battling on the Chester five metre line. A series of reset scrums and a yellow card for the Chester scrum half ended in a trademark drive and pickup try by Matt Lamprey which was converted by Davidson.
Hoppers were now in front at 17-18 but lacked control of the ball and the Chester forwards turned the tables by driving on to score another converted try. The play then flowed back and forth with strong attacking from both sides, Chester managing to score just before the half time whistle.
The teams went in at 31-18.
The second half start was almost a repeat of the first with Chester outside centre Adam King scoring a try within the first minute, Holloway providing the conversion.
Coach Arnold’s half time talk then took effect which saw Hoppers forwards protecting the ball and going through the phases with strong play and good handling, new number four Adam Howard proving a powerful presence in the line. From this passage of play James Fitzpatrick crossed the line and Davidson converted. With the Hoppers’ forwards dominating the scrum, the bonus point fourth try followed soon after with Pete Altham scoring and Davidson accurate once again.
The Chester response then had Hoppers defending a barrage of attacks in front of their posts and with four minutes of the match remaining, King scored again, Holloway converted and made the score line 48-32.
Hoppers rallied again and a series of punishing attacks ended with new number nine James Gough marking his debut with a try as the clock ran down.
After the match coach Paul Arnold said, “We had too many unforced errors, made too many silly mistakes and a lack of discipline resulting in penalties effectively cost us a game against a good side who were smarter than us today. However, I take lots of positives from the game and am happy with the way the team and the new boys have played ”.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Mike Craig