Hoppers got the points they needed to retain their place in National 2 (North) but had to wait until the final minutes to be ensured of safety in a pulsating contest at Hull.
A 20 minute period after the break decided the game as Hull were camped in the Hoppers 22 with a succession of 5m line-outs but a sensational defensive effort saw Hoppers resist the barrage of attacks to shut out Hull in the second half.
Speaking after the game a jubilant Gath Dew said; “I’m thrilled at the result and the performance, we knew what we had to do but that was a real pressure situation. The heavy rain just before the break really played into their hands but we showed a lot of composure to stop them scoring and then grab the crucial try at the end.”
“The defence in the second half when we were on our own line was fantastic, we had a man in the bin as well which made it even tougher but that showed the effort and commitment that has been there all year.”
“Again the pack was very good and that’s something we want to build on going forward, but we do like to play a good brand of rugby and we showed that in the first half with some nice touches.”
Hoppers really set about their task well and were ahead in the opening minutes after a clever quick tap penalty was advanced deep into the Hull 22 before good hands put Scott Jordan over in the corner.
Hull showed they wouldn’t lie down and went to their driving game with Ben Sullivan scoring but anther clever quick penalty saw Dominic Moon power his way over for Hoppers to regain the lead.
Hoppers launched a line-out drive of their own as Hull were reduced to 14 men and extended their lead when Ali Murray grounded a well worked drive.
However, they got on the wrong side of the penalty count and two tries late in the first half from Jonny Matthews and Ben Thoy levelled the scores at the break at 19-19.
Heavy rain made the free flowing rugby of the first half a challenge in the second and this certainly suited Hull who build around a strong pack, but even with a high penalty count, a man in the bin and endless pressure in the 22 they couldn’t get across the Hoppers line for the all important fourth try which they had to score.
Hoppers survived everything the hosts threw at them with the majority of the half played deep in their territory. There was some fantastic work to repel Hull’s driving mauls with Murray and Reece Tomlinson in the thick of things. When Hull did try something different they were quickly stopped at source with Pete Altham and Will Lees making plenty of tackles but nothing summed up the day more that the superb take of a good cross kick as Jordan, who had three Hull players around him, timed his leap to perfection and made ground to help Hoppers clear their line.
It took until the 70th minute for them to get good possession in the Hull half when they unleashed two massive catch and drives from 40m out, one which was illegally dropped allowing Lewis Allen to slot a penalty and minutes later the same tactic got Hoppers to the line and good hands put John O’Donnell over to seal the win and National 2 status.
Hull 19-29 Preston Grasshoppers
The photos below are used with the kind permission of Colin Taylor.