Leicester Lions 26-24 Preston Grasshoppers
“Deja-vu” was Head Coach Arnold’s comment after the match and the pain in his voice reflected yet another last minute defeat in a match that was all but secured.
Hoppers started well, matching the Lions in the forwards exchanges and could have been three points up if the penalty awarded in the fourteenth minute on the Lions’ 22m line in front of the posts had not sailed wide.
They were rewarded almost immediately when Davidson found touch deep in the Leicester half. Hoppers won the ball and with Lamprey making ground, a pass had new boy Rouban Birch crossing the line for the first try inside the corner.
Soon after the restart the Lions had a penalty just inside the Preston half. Fly half Daniel Lewis stepped up and sent the ball over the posts to reduce the Hoppers’ lead to two points.
Play was then a scrappy battle between the forwards with little ground gained by either side until a break from the Leicester scrum half Smit took the Lions to within 5m of the Hoppers’ line where sustained pressure by their pack enabled Lewis to score and put them in the lead at 8 – 5 with five minutes to go to half time.
Hoppers responded quickly and a penalty kick took them down to the Lions’ 22 and this time it was Preston’s forwards pressurizing the line. Alastair Murray scored, Davidson converted and the teams went in with score at 8 – 12.
The second half started with an early try for Leicester by winger Constant which was converted by Lewis. Lions extended their lead three minutes later when Lewis again found the posts with a penalty kick from just inside the Preston half.
Despite Hoppers’ dominance in the scrum throughout the match, time and again they were not able to profit from it and their frustration was compounded by yet another penalty scored by Lewis from the Preston 10m line.
Then the game seemed to settle and Hoppers played through several phases where some quick handling moved them towards the Leicester line and a try scored by James Fitzpatrick, playing at 6 today, reduced the deficit to four points only to see the conversion bounce off the post and make the score 21 – 17 with fifteen minutes remaining.
Hoppers then pushed on and a huge kick to touch from Davidson took them to the opposition 5m line. A break by Fitzpatrick resulted in a second try for Birch which was converted by Davidson, putting Hoppers into a three point lead with nine minutes remaining.
Leicester then missed a penalty to square the match and Hoppers only had to see out the last two minutes when Lions’ Martin broke through and ran in to score easily and secure the win which made the final score 26 – 24.
Paul Arnold said, “Our game management needs to be better, they are a decent side and managed the game better than us. We came away with two points from an away fixture. Two kicks that hit the posts made the difference to the result and we need to put this behind us and move on”
Despite this run of frustrating losses, Hoppers have played well against established teams in this league and actually moved up the league after today’s game. With several key players due to return from injury the future is not too bleak. We start again next Saturday at home to Sheffield Tigers so let’s get behind the lads and give them the support to start a winning streak.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Kelys Herbert