Preston Grasshoppers 22 – 27 Huddersfield
Hoppers looked to start the New Year with a return to winning ways after the disappointment at Fylde and having dominated the match at Huddersfield, only to lose it in the last ten minutes they had a point to prove.
Before their warm-up it was a slightly intrigued set of Huddersfield players who wandered about on the pitch, as this was their first time playing on our AGP.
The first quarter of the match was a fairly even contest with both sides gaining and losing ground in turn and Hoppers showing some encouraging possession and quick passing moves. However, a major blow came in the twelfth minute when Ali Murray was deemed to have fouled in the tackle and shown a yellow card.
With their hosts a man down Huddersfield attacked the Preston line and looked like scoring as they played through several phases inside the 5m line. With some dogged defending by the home side they were held out and a clearing kick relieved the pressure but only as far as Hoppers’ 10m line.
The renewed advance from the lineout moved Huddersfield to within their hosts’ 22 and fly-half Johnson executed an easy drop goal from in front of the posts.
From the restart Huddersfield immediately attacked the Preston try line. A break from Johnson took them into the Preston half where he kicked forward but the ball ran out behind the posts. After a lengthy stoppage for an injury to the Huddersfield prop, Whitfield, play resumed with a 5m scrum to the visitors in front of the Hoppers’ posts. The ball was quickly secured and passed out to winger Workman to score. Johnson’s conversion attempt failed but with eighteen minutes gone Huddersfield had a two-score lead.
Hoppers restarted and were again put on the defence as the battle for possession and territory resumed with Huddersfield constantly pushing their opponents into their own 22. Despite repeatedly clearing their lines, time and again they were denied possession and Alex Ward was busy with clearance kicks and a try-saving tackle just short of his line.
This pattern continued throughout the half until full back Nathan Pope, making his first appearance for Hoppers, collected the ball inside his own 22 and broke out, carving his way to the half way line only for the ball to be lost in contact. As the half time whistle sounded the teams went in with the score at 0 – 8.
Although Hoppers had been strong in the scrum, Huddersfield looked dangerous on the break, putting the home side under pressure for much of the half.
Hoppers started the second half but again the visitors moved swiftly up the field, pressing their line. A clearing kick from Tyler Spence was collected on the half way line by Ali Murray who then raced towards to Huddersfield 22, his break taking him well in front of his teammates. He found support from Spence who had followed his kick and taking the pass, ran on to score under the posts. Ward converted and Preston were back in the game.
The battle for possession intensified and penalties were frequent. One to Hoppers and two to the visitors pushed the score on to 10 – 14.
When a restart kick was collected by James Gough just short of the Huddersfield 22m line his pass was taken by new man Ryan Carlson who made ten metres before offloading to Matthew Crow to put Hoppers into the lead with a try under the posts and Ward’s conversion was good.
This lead was short-lived though when only five minutes later Huddersfield replacement prop, Battye crossed the Preston line. A penalty by Johnson and another try by Stewart put Huddersfield firmly in the lead with ten minutes to go. Then Hoppers, camped on their opponents’ try line, were awarded a series of four penalty scrums during which Huddersfield were given a warning from the referee. From the last of these Lamprey, in the last minute, burst over the line to secure the losing bonus point. The final score was 22 – 27.
Coach Arnold was disappointed,
“We know that they are a good side. We made some poor decisions with the ball in hand and they schooled us at the breakdown. I was happy that we fought back for the losing bonus point and the new boys played well. We’ll put this down to a Christmas hangover and with players coming back from injury, we will be looking for a response at Sedgley Park next week”.
The team really appreciates the support from travelling fans so let’s try to get a good crowd out for the short trip to Greater Manchester.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Mike Craig