Hull Ionians 15-19 Preston Grasshoppers
Preston Grasshoppers secured their second win of the season with a 19-15 victory away at Hull Ionians.
Tries from Tyler Spence, Scott Richardson and Ed Keohane gave Hoppers a confidence-boosting win after three straight losses.
The defeat at home to Otley last time out added to worries about the number of points conceded in their opening fixtures.
But a second-half shutout in East Yorkshire showed an encouraging improvement.
Ionians dominated the opening exchanges, but Hoppers remained resolute until ill-discipline gave Lewis Minikin a chance to open the scoring after 15 minutes with a penalty, which he comfortably despatched.
The hosts started to dominate a youthful Hoppers pack with pressure on the visitors’ try-line relentless, and George Mewburn powered his way over from a rolling maul for a try in the 19th minute.
Graham Steadman’s outfit continued to enjoy their control at set pieces, and Scott Westwood touched down from another rolling maul on 25 minutes to double Ionians’ try count for the afternoon.
Hoppers found their rhythm in the second quarter of the first half, and Spence (pictured above) scored their first try, diving onto Will Hunt’s clever grubber kick.
The fightback continued, and Oli Trippier won a scrum penalty, which allowed Hunt to kick to the corner for a line-out, with Richardson turning the tables on the hosts, touching down from a rolling maul.
Ionians’ lead narrowed to 15-14 on the stroke of halftime.
Hunt had the opportunity to send Hoppers into the lead with a penalty on 41 minutes, but he pushed his kick wide.
Hoppers built phases in Ionians’ 22, and Keohane took advantage, showing ruthlessness to spot a gap in the defence to cross the whitewash, but Hunt hit the upright with his conversion attempt.
The conditions were challenging, with Hunt missing another penalty to extend Preston’s lead.
A defensively tenacious final ten minutes saw Hoppers prevent Ionians from stealing the win.
Hoppers Director of Rugby Alex Keay was delighted with the response after falling behind early on.
He said: “I thought it was a great reaction.
“I don’t think we’ve ever questioned the character of the boys at any stage, we just need to stop giving people a lead.
“When we do get going from the off and keep it going, we’re going to kill somebody.”
Hoppers sit 11th in the table with five games gone and host Hull at Lightfoot Green next weekend.
Report by Ben Pitkeathly, picture by Mike Craig