Huddersfield 19-13 Preston Grasshoppers
Having put last week’s experience against table toppers, Sedgley Tigers behind them, Hoppers travelled across the Pennines to Huddersfield in the hope that, with a more level playing field, against a side they had already beaten at home, they would resume their steady progress towards the consolidation of a mid-table place by the season’s end.
With several regular players unavailable the team still looked capable of coming away with the points, however, as the match unfolded, little went their way.
The afternoon was overcast, damp and cold as Huddersfield kicked off and immediately attacked the Hoppers’ 22. After just a handful of phases they had crossed under the posts when centre, Workman, collected the ball and broke through.
The conversion by outside half, Milner, was easy and within 90 seconds, Huddersfield were off and running. 7 – 0.
Hoppers’ response was swift. They restarted with a long kick into their hosts’ 22 which was knocked forward as it was collected. The ball was secured from the scrum and quickly moved out wide for Will Clapham to score in the corner. Will Hunt’s conversion attempt from out on the wing drifted past the upright but order had been established.
The play then settled down with both sides battling for possession in the middle third of the pitch until Huddersfield were awarded a penalty when Jacob Browne was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball on as he ran to intercept a pass. Milner slotted the kick to edge the home side into a five-point lead but with only sixteen minutes having elapsed, there was still time for Hoppers to turn things around.
With the teams very evenly matched, this was never going to be a try-fest for either side and certainly, it was not an entertaining spectacle of exciting rugby. A stream of penalties and re-set scrums did not make for an edifying spectacle and things only got worse for the lads when Scott Richardson was shown a red card for what was deemed a dangerous tackle, a decision which had the travelling fans somewhat perplexed as, at that point, on the opposite wing, Browne was still stretched out on the ground as a result of what appeared to be a ‘no-arms’ tackle which had, strangely, gone unnoticed by the officials. With fifty-five minutes to play without a key member of the pack, this was now going to be a tough passage home.
But Hoppers were not beaten yet and saw out the half without further points being scored despite having crossed the line more than once and been denied any points as the attempts were decided to have been held up.]It had become a scrappy, un-productive half with play dictated by endless penalty decisions, frustratingly re-set scrums and miss-handled lineouts. An equally frustrating aspect for the supporters was that here were two teams that were fairly evenly matched and wanted to play, both needing valuable points to move up the table and yet flowing rugby was scarcely seen. The difference between them was the number of penalties which had, thus far, benefitted the home side.
The second half started as an almost mirror image of the first when after two minutes, the very versatile Ben Dorrington, this week starting at openside flanker, took the ball just inside the Huddersfield half and set off at pace. He tapped forward and then out stripped his chasing defender to score with a dramatic dive.
Sadly, Hunt’s boot was not functioning so well as his opposite number but the score reflected how well-matched the teams were. 10 – 10.
As had been the pattern of the game, the eventual result was decided by penalties with Huddersfield running out victors with three more to Hoppers’ paltry one. Final score,19 – 13.
After the match, Chris Taylor who, as a result of several telling breaks and his work in the tight, was declared Man of the Match.
Club Captain, Ali Murray, summed up the game:
“Frustrating, but another point on the board I guess. Looking at the positives, we played fifty-five minutes with a man down but we killed ourselves in the second half. We played a lot of rugby inside their half but gave away too many penalties. We have talked a lot recently about how we manage the discipline on the pitch, how we talk to the referee, how we present the picture to him and keep him onside. I think that aspect was better, generally, than it has been but unfortunately today things didn’t go for us and we’re all frustrated.”
With a home fixture against Sheffield next Saturday, and having suffered an early-season loss at Abbeydale, the lads have to put today to bed and focus on repairing the game plan. There will be no lack of effort that’s for certain!
Report by John Le Page, picture by Mike Craig