Hull Ionians vs PGRFC

Date: 25 March 2023

Hull Ionians 33-29 Preston Grasshoppers RFC

With much recent discussion centred on our security in NL2N next season, the trip to Hull needed to reap some points to give a little breathing space between Hoppers and the two teams below them.

Ionians had been in the top four for most of the season but had only managed a one-point victory at Lightfoot Green in November and with the recent run of form, there was every reason to expect a close game and maybe a win at Brantingham Park.

The weather was bright and, occasionally sunny as the teams went through their warm-ups but right on cue, as Hoppers kicked off, the rain began and the noticeable breeze down the length of the pitch set the scene for most of the match.

Ionians immediately launched their attack, passing their way deep into the Hoppers’ 22 and a scrum just outside it. They won the ball and a chip forward created a foot race which was only ended by Harry Moulding diving on the ball in goal.

The drop-out offered only a brief respite as the home side then had a lineout on the Preston 22. They started a running attack, swiftly moving the ball across the field and making good ground until an overthrown pass put the ball into touch.

Hoppers won their lineout and although Harry Swarbrick was stripped of the ball, in the ensuing pass the ball was fumbled by the home side and seized on by Ben Pearson who then kicked it on for Jacob Browne, this week playing at 15, to collect and tear through the defence before passing to Tom Lee who then showed his pace to blaze down the wing and score in the corner. Pearson slotted the conversion from out on the wing and after five minutes of the match, Hoppers were off to an early lead, 0 – 7.

Then, before the travelling faithful had had time to appreciate their pleasant surprise, Lee doubled the score after an interception allowed him to trot over half the length of the pitch unopposed and dot down under the posts. The easy kick was quickly executed by Pearson to put the visitors 0 – 14 up.

Then Ionians had a fortunate bit of luck when one of their players was deemed to have been tackled in the air by Tyler Spence. The penalty took them to a lineout on their visitors’ 22 where they drove the maul towards the line and flanker, Mewburn dropped over. The high-scoring Minikin, identified in the Hoppers’ pre-match article as one to watch, stepped up to add more points to his impressive total by kicking the extras, the first of the twenty he would amass for the afternoon, 7 – 14.

Undeterred, Hoppers continued the first half try-fest by replying with another score just as the clock moved into the last ten minutes.

Ionians had held up an attempted try as Hoppers continued their relentless assaults but the drop-out sailed straight into touch giving away a scrum on the Hull 5m line.

The ball came out, was passed to Browne who scored wide left of the upright. Pearson’s kick slipped past the post but Hoppers’ lead had extended to twelve points, 7 – 19 and there was still nine minutes left of this startling half.

From the restart, Hoppers gained a scrum towards the half way line and passed their way into their hosts’ 10m line. The ball went out and Ionians had a lineout back on half way but as they began their attack, the ball was intercepted by Jake Maher who left all behind him as he raced through to score under the posts. The conversion was good and with only three minutes of the half remaining, at the whistle the teams went to the sheds with Hoppers leading 7 – 26.

It’s safe to say that most of the faithful would have been satisfied, before the kick off, with a couple of points from this fixture and whilst there was a long way to go, to be nineteen points in front with the Try Bonus Point already in the bag was beyond anyone’s expectation.

The lads had played some of their best rugby to put themselves in a commanding position. However, a side like Ionians, who have been at the top of their game for most of the season are not likely to be ‘rolled over’ so easily.

In his pre-match speech, their captain had alluded to the strength of the Hoppers’ pack, even admitting they had boosted their own with some beefy chaps. Whilst this had not significantly affected the game thus far, the home side were a very strong outfit and had had some possession despite them trailing on the score board.

Hoppers’ defence had been excellent once more, swiftly turning it into attack and, whilst two of the tries had been opportunist, the chances had been created, taken, and the points delivered.

With the score at 7 – 26, Ionians kicked off the second half, put some phases together, and within three minutes, a chip into the in-goal area enabled Minikin to score beside the post.

He converted his own try and now the home side were into their stride, 14 – 26.

It was just three minutes later that a fast passing move had them with a three-man overlap inside the Hoppers’ 22 and the move was sealed when replacement Powell crossed the whitewash. Minikin was on target again and a nineteen- point lead had been cut to five in the space of five minutes, 21 – 26.

As has been said before, a lapse of focus can turn the game and once again it appeared that Hoppers had lost their shape and most of their lead with it.

The Bonus Point try for the home side was not long in coming as an interception, this time by the Hull winger, allowed that man Mininkin to score his second which he then converted taking the score to 28 – 26 with twenty minutes to go.

The previous fixture had been a one-point result and today had all the hallmarks of another for either side. This was clearly illustrated when Pearson kicked a penalty from in front of the posts taking the score to 28 – 29 with four minutes remaining.

Ionians had their chance to swing it again, however, Minikin showed he was not immortal by missing his penalty kick on the seventy-eighth minute, now all Hoppers had to do was keep the ball and run down the clock.

Sadly, the pressure in a game of this sort is a powerful thing and the ball was secured from the Hoppers’ goal-line drop-out for Ionians to mount their final attack. They charged into the 22, moving the ball across the field until it was received by Mewburn who, having opened the scoring for the home side, ended the game with his second try in the corner. Minikin failed with his attempt from the touchline and the whistle brought proceedings to an end, the final score, 33 – 29.

Dan, once again, was pleased and disappointed at the same time,

“In the first half we just took or chances and were really clinical and accurate. We knew that Hull would come at us and they did but we had most of the possession and that, together with our defence which was awesome throughout the game, gave us the good lead at half time.

In the second half they played the wind better than we did, we attempted some poor kicks and the momentum shifted as they won the kicking battle, pushing us back into our own 22.

I am pleased with the first half performance and if we had managed that kicking game in the second, I feel we could have won it. The lads didn’t give up when they went behind, and to come back with the penalty only to be beaten in the dying seconds was devastating.”

That said, with other results going in our favour, Hoppers are now twenty points above Harrogate and only one behind Sheffield who have yet to play Sedgley Park, Tyndale, Wharfedale and Huddersfield whilst we meet Blaydon at Lightfoot Green next week before the final away fixture at Rotherham, then ending the season at home to Wharfedale.

Support at these three games is key and very much appreciated by the team so let’s make an extra effort to help them on their way to a second season in this league.

Report by John Le Page, picture by Mike Craig

Back to Rugby Reports Back to Fixtures