Fylde vs PGRFC

Date: 11 February 2023

Fylde 32-29 Preston Grasshoppers

The re-arranged fixture against old rivals Fylde drew a good crowd to the Woodlands. The weather was pleasant, cool, with no wind and a good surface for running rugby.

After some recently improving performances, Hoppers kicked off and immediately attacked into the Fylde 22. A scrum on the 5m line resulting in a penalty gave them a lineout. The pack drove their hosts and Ben Dorrington scored mid-way between the left post and the corner. Will Hunt slotted the conversion and after just three minutes Hoppers were off and running, 0 – 7.

They continued to pressure the Fylde defence inside the 22 and looked to be heading for a second assault on the line when a loose pass was intercepted by the Fylde winger, Turner, who broke into open space to score towards the corner. The conversion attempt by stand-off, Smith missed the mark but the stage was now set for an entertaining afternoon, 5 – 7.

Again, Hoppers broke with a fast passing move from Hunt to Will Clapham who, having made good ground, gave the ball to Ed Keohane. He chipped forward but the ball was pounced on by the Fylde full back and cleared.

With the match approaching the end of the first quarter, Hoppers were constantly attacking deep in the Fylde half, forcing their hosts into desperate clearing kicks which only launched another attack by their visitors.

As a result of this pressure, Hoppers were awarded a penalty just outside the Fylde 10m line, in front of the posts. Hunt tee’d the ball up and then watched in disbelief as it drifted left past the upright.

Fylde then hit a purple patch scoring two tries in the space of four minutes. The first by Jordan Dorrington who, emulating his brother, secured the ball and scored in the right corner. The conversion attempt failed. Then it was the turn of inside half, Potts who darted away from the lineout on Hoppers’ 5m line to score just left of the post. This time the conversion was good and with half an hour gone, Fylde were in the driving seat, 17 – 7.

But there’s always an extra edge in a local derby and Hoppers responded. From the restart they were awarded a penalty and gained a lineout on their hosts’ 22. A few short phases resulted in lost ball but as the home side brokeout, Harry Swarbrick intercepted a pass and raced down the left wing to touch down in the corner. Hunt’s attempt from wide failed to make the mark but Hoppers were back in the game, 17 – 12.

As the clock eased round to half time, a break by Tyler Spence took play down to the Fylde 22 and a penalty in front of goal. Hunt was blessed with good fortune as the ball clipped the inside of the post and went through, 17 – 15.

With less than five minutes of the first half remaining, Hoppers were looking to go to the sheds having clawed back the score to a two point difference.

However, a penalty gave Fylde the advantage and when the ball was secured from the lineout on Hoppers’ 15m line, it was winger Lanigan who broke from the 22 to score the bonus point try for Fylde on the stroke of half time. Smith was accurate and the whistle sent the teams in with the scoreboard showing 24 – 15.

Fylde were strong in attack, breaking tackles and gaining ground. As usual, Hoppers were solid in defence and had also kept up their attacks in spite of loose passes costing them possession and, despite the late score, the teams were evenly matched.

From the restart Hoppers were on the front foot again when Hunt intercepted a pass only for the ball to be lost in the tackle. But Hoppers were awarded a penalty and a lineout on the Fylde 22. The ball was won and a move from Keohane to Dorrington and on to Ally Murray took them into the Red Zone where the possession was lost in the scrappy tackling in front of the line, resulting in a knock-on and a scrum to the home side.

Play moved up field where it moved back and forth across the 22. Ewan Naylor fell foul of the referee’s wrath and was shown a yellow card and then it was Fylde who had the scrum in front, on the Hoppers’ 5m line.

In the tackling that followed, Jake Squirrell succumbed to a collision and was escorted from the field looking like something from a medieval battle, holding a pad to his head and sporting a torrent of blood down the front of his shirt!. However, he was walking un-aided and, having been bandaged up by Lucy, was able to watch the remainder of the game from the bench.

With a man down in a match as tight as this, it was not a surprise when Fylde made their advantage tell with a series of phases across the Hoppers’ 5m line ending in a try for number four, Parkinson, in the corner. Smith could not convert but the score moved on to 29 – 15 with over twenty-five minutes left.

Once again, Hoppers mounted their attack and, still with Naylor in the sin bin, they came back with a try by Will Clapham just right of the post. Hunt slotted the extras and as the match moved into the final quarter, Hoppers were back in the game once more, 29 – 22.

The travelling faithful were now thinking the impossible, could the lads finish it off at this, the key fixture of the season for bragging rights?

The play kept up at a fast pace and both teams made excursions into the others’ half. Hoppers had a break which took them from their own 5m line down to the Fylde 22 only to be foiled by a forward pass. Their hosts then had a lineout back on the Hoppers’ 5m line and looked dangerous until the pack drove them into touch. The play was relentless until Hoppers were given a scrum on their own 5m line from where they moved up towards the half way line and a penalty in their favour. Hunt made touch inside the Fylde 22 but the lineout was deemed not straight.

Then the Fylde scrum was driven, the ball secured and Hunt executed a delightfully weighted chip pass into the path of the on-rushing Clapham who covered the 20 metres untouched to score his second try in the corner. With the score at 29 – 27, Hunt’s conversion attempt from wide on the wing looked ever more difficult but he stroked it goalwards with ease and now the travelling supporters were truly heartened. 29 – 29.

A draw would have been a fair result in many ways but as is often the case, it was not to be. With the clock edging to the final minute of play Fylde were awarded a penalty on the Hoppers’ 22 close to the touchline.

Smith had missed three of his kicks in the game and this looked to be the most difficult but, to the disappointment of the Hoppers’ faithful, he managed to hit his mark and the whistle ended the match, 32 – 29.

Speaking to Dan after the match, he was full of praise for the team:

“The effort, work rate and positivity were there to see and we’re gutted that we didn’t finish it. But I’m proud, really really proud of the lads, this was the performance of the season so far and it feels like we have turned a corner today. It was a real squad effort, we used all twenty players and they all played a part in this outstanding performance.”

Hoppers face Otley who now sit third in the table behind Fylde with Sedgley Park at the top and after a display like today, the team must go into that game on our pitch with confidence so let’s get a good crowd down to the club to spur them on.

Report by John Le Page, pictures by Mike Craig

Fylde away 11 Feb 2023

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