Liverpool St Helens 2nd XV 19-20 PGRFC 3rd XV
Hoppers 3rd team finally got their first win of the season on Saturday in torrid conditions away at fellow strugglers Liverpool St Helens 2nds. After last week’s narrow loss to Leigh, captain Gav McQueen was able to refresh the side with the return of a number of players, including himself.
Following a disjointed warm up, not helped by a few late arrivals, the game started with Hoppers playing up the slight slope and into the swirling wind and rain. They started brightly with a good tempo, a manner which has been absent all too often this season, and set the tone with some big forward carries early on that LSH struggled to live with. Unfortunately, veteran prop Jason Shadwell’s afternoon was cut short after only a couple of minutes due to a reoccurring back problem and was replaced by the ever eager Duncan Brown. With many onlookers questioning whether Hoppers could cope with the loss of their inspirational and talismanic prop, the opening try soon answered those questions. Some ferocious and coordinated attacks by the pack moved Hoppers to within five metres of their opponent’s line and Chappellhow reaped the benefits of his comrades efforts, crossing the line after collecting a fine offload. The extras were added to put Hoppers 7-0 up.
More industrious work from the forwards at the restart and a thunderous run in midfield from Dunne quickly had Hoppers back in the LSH half. The building pressure led to a penalty which Peterson kicked to put Hoppers 10-0 in front.
LSH finally started to come into the game midway through the first half and were soon camped in the visitors twenty two thanks to some superb territorial kicking from their stand-off. They didn’t have to wait long before their opening points after some weak defence in the Hoppers back line allowed the gargantuan 12 to make good ground and a supporting team mate crossed the white wash to bring the league’s bottom team back into the game. Hoppers replied with another penalty to stretch their lead to 13-5 but were back in their own twenty two following more fine kicking from the stand-off. In almost a mirrored replay of the first LSH try, the 12 again made good ground in midfield to set up a score in the right corner of the pitch and this time the extras were added to make it a one point game. Hoppers struggles to cope with the LSH kicking game continued and much of the rest of the half was spent close to their own line.
During a rare foray into LSH territory, young scrum half Tom Flanagan showed great awareness and speed to break down the blind side and caught the home side napping to go over from 40 yards. With the conversion successful, the score would prove decisive and capped off a fine, controlled performance from the youngster. Hoppers went into the break 20-12 ahead.
The game was to become very fractious in the second half as both sides desperately sought that elusive first win of the season.
Plenty of errors from both sides restricted the flow of the game although the attitude and endeavour from both teams could not be faulted. Courageous and tireless defence all over the park led to numerous turnovers, in particular from the back row of Best, George and Chappellhow, and helped keep Hoppers out in front. With the match entering its final quarter, LSH kicked ahead and confusion in the Hoppers’ back three, coupled with an unfortunate bobble of the ball, brought LSH’s final try of the game and with the conversion successful, Hoppers led the basement battle 20-19. Peterson left the field with only moments to go resembling a baby giraffe after a bang to the head, joining wounded old stagers George and Shadwell. Hoppers held on for dear life and got their rewards for a gritty performance as the referee blew the full time whistle.
There were excellent performances all over the pitch and a clear desire to get away from the foot of the table. This was epitomised none more so by the efforts of Shadwell who declared ‘I had nothing left to give’ in the jubilant away dressing at full time. More performances like this will go a long way in helping the 3rds get out of trouble this season.
- McQueen ©