Preston Grasshoppers 27 – 7 Peterborough Lions
On a bright November afternoon, Hoppers kicked off into the breeze and the sun and were quickly attacking the Lions on their own 22m line earning a penalty in front of the posts. Davidson stepped up and the hosts were 3 – 0 up after 3 minutes.
Peterborough restarted but before they had time to gather their thoughts Tyler Spence was tearing up the wing, a forty metre burst that, once again this season, left his opposition spectating as he delivered the ball to Rouban Birch to score under the posts. Davidson’s conversion was good and, with just six minutes on the clock, Hoppers had a 10 – 0 lead.
The effect of this early onslaught seemed to rattle the Lions as their restart was so long it ran out behind the posts. From the scrum on half way Matt Lamprey broke through the defence and Hoppers were attacking from the Peterborough 5m line. The Lions managed to slow things down and were rewarded with a penalty which took them back to the half way line.
The visitors won the line out and it was their turn to attack. A kick to touch had them pressing the Hoppers’ 5m line and only some stalwart defending kept them out as they pushed towards the try line. Then the Lions were awarded a penalty and kicked to the corner, won the line out and once again were pressing the Hoppers’ line. Relief came in the form of a knock on and Hoppers were able to clear to half way.
The game then assumed the ferocious forward exchanges we have seen in previous matches this season with both packs gaining and losing ground in the middle of the field although for once the Preston forwards were not as dominant and the Lions displayed some quick handling which was only halted by a knock on at the Hoppers’ 22m line.
The re-set scrum resulted in a penalty for the hosts which put them back into the Peterborough half. Then a blistering thirty metre break by Luke Proctor took them down to the Lions’ 5m line. A penalty gave them a line out but it was overthrown and Peterborough were able to kick themselves to the Hoppers’ 10m line.
Some fast passing from the Lions moved them towards the Preston try line. Ali Murray stole the ball but the visitors were then awarded a penalty. From the 5m line out, knock on and ensuing scrum, Hoppers won the ball and Davidson kicked them back to half way.
The following ten minutes saw the play moving back and forth with both sides making ground. A penetrating run by the Lions was stopped by a decisive tackle from Conor Truman, then a turnover by Oga Mabaya deep in the Hoppers’ half set Sam Stott on his way and a pass to Spence put them through half way and on to the Lions’ 10m line.
Again the play occupied the centre of the field and Peterborough continued to pressure the Hoppers’ forwards, pushing them back towards their own 5m line. A break by Lamprey to half way and couple of penalties had the home side back in the Lions’ 22m where they gained another penalty. The decision to go for goal from wide on the wing was somewhat bold and with a stiff breeze against it, the ball curled just past the post.
From the restart Hoppers won the ball from a scrum on the Peterborough 10m line. Truman broke out and delivered the ball to Spence at speed and he crossed the line beneath the posts. Davidson converted and the score after thirty four minutes was 17 – 0.
Peterborough then restarted with a kick that barely made 5m. From the scrum a fast break and excellent offload from James Fitzpatrick gained Hoppers a penalty which took them to the Lions’ 5m line again. The visitors defended well and a penalty found touch on the hosts’ 10m line.
A free kick from the line out had them attacking the Hoppers’ line at speed only to be halted by a huge crash tackle from Murray which forced a knock on. A break out by Lamprey passing to Murray, who surged forward before returning the pass to the number 8, took the home side down to the Lions’ 10m line and with the clock in the red, Gough put the ball out and the teams went in search of the oranges with score at 17 – 0.
The second half began with a resumption of the centre-field exchanges. Peterborough pressed on and Hoppers found themselves defending on their own 5m line. A break by Lamprey got them back to their own 10m line where normal service was resumed.
The Lions then maintained possession in the middle of the field, defying the Preston forwards until a steal by Murray sent Truman down the line and a pass to Stott moved them on to a scrum 10m out from the visitors’ line. The forwards pressed on and from a line out James Gough went over the Lions’ line only to be held up.
Hoppers continued the attack and from a scrum on the opposition 5m line Matt Lamprey scored inside the corner flag. Davidson missed the conversion but the lead after fifty four minutes was a healthy 22 – 0.
Play resumed but with Hoppers defending on their own 22m line, Birch was shown a yellow card for repeated offside offences. The Lions acted quickly, took a tap penalty and number 12 Defeo scored and then converted his own try.
The following ten minutes was a mixture of forward exchanges, scrums and penalties from both sides until a break by Lamprey to the Peterborough 15m line resulted in a penalty kick and from the five metres out, Alex Ward crossed the line in the corner for the bonus point try. The conversion gods were not on Davidson’s side as, from wide on the wing, his attempt just touched the post on the wrong side. 27 – 7
Hoppers now began to dominate and a break had Lamprey and Murray combining to make forty metres only for the certain try to be denied by a crossing offence. Again the home side pressed on and an explosive break from Pete Altham to within ten metres of the Lions’ line was only halted by dogged defending and a clearing kick to half way.
Some fast passing and deft handling by Peterborough moved them inside the Hoppers’ 22m line and only tackle by full back Spence who bundled the attacker into touch prevented them scoring a second try.
Hoppers resumed the attack and spent the rest of the game in and around the Lions’ 22m line. They were awarded a penalty but as Davidson settled himself to kick, the wind blew the ball off the tee. He quickly took the drop kick which floated wide, the game restarted and as the clock ran down, Hoppers finished the match with a deserved win.
Coach Arnold was happy with the outcome,
‘Before the game I said to the lads that we needed a bonus point win and also needed to tighten up our defence. We did both today but heads were down in the changing room after the game because we left some points out there on the field. But that’s one of the strengths of this side, they want to improve. Peterborough are a good side; they recently beat highflying Chester and were only narrowly beaten by Sedgley Park. Today was a good result and we need to move on with some difficult fixtures coming up.
Our ambition is 60 points and we are half way there!’
Next week is a stern test as we go away to Hinckley who, despite losing to Otley this weekend, still sit fourth in the table and will be a hard side to beat on their own turf. However, as we have seen this season, Hoppers have been equal to every side they have played and will go into this encounter with a positive attitude, bolstered by a good win today.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Mike Craig