Hoppers 2nd XV 36 Fylde Hawks 0
The second team got their Bateman Conference A campaign off to the perfect start with convincing victory over Fylde Hawks. If truth be told the scoreline flattered the visitors as Hoppers dominated territory and possession. The Hawks were restricted to sporadic sorties into the Preston half whilst Young’s men also spurned at least three gilt edged chances.
Admittedly the set pieces were evenly contested but Hopper’s outstanding back row trio of Doney, Napier and Wallace prevented Fylde gaining any momentum at the breakdown. Therefore the Hawks backs did not get the kind of quick ball they usually thrive off whilst their inside centre endured a chastening afternoon. The men from the Woodlands did try to run the ball at every given opportunity but they were unable to replicate the threat posed by Viney and Hough three weeks ago.
Young’s men dominated the opening half hour but were unable to get any points on the board. Murphy looked to have opened the scoring after great work from Kendall but Moulding’s offload was deemed to have drifted forward. There followed a short delay as Fylde stalwart Martin Wallwork required treatment after what seemed like a sickening clash of heads with his own player.
Ryan Marshall then proved the catalyst with a strong counter attack but it was Moulding’s turn to be held up as the Hawks scrambled back. Shortly afterwards Kendall knocked on with the line begging and Hoppers’ frustration was compounded when Tom Smith was sin binned for an indiscretion at the breakdown.
Despite their numerical disadvantage Hoppers opened the scoring just before half time as Kendall seized upon a loose ball and jinked through a number of would be tacklers to score from twenty five metres. The winger converted his own try and Hoppers led 7-0 at the break.
Preston started the second period well and some early pressure from Wallace saw him hack through but he was unable to ground the ball. However the resultant scrum saw Hoppers double their lead as Murray switched the play for Marshall to finish smartly. Kendall added another fine conversion.
Hoppers continued to apply the pressure and some ferocious tackling kept the Hawks entrenched in their twenty two. One such hit was punished though by the referee as Napier was sent to the sin bin as his effort was adjudged to have been late. The setback brought quizzical looks from the Hoppers faithful but Young’s men didn’t let it affect them and young winger Anthony Elliott scampered through for a fine try. That man Kendall added the extras and Hoppers finally had a lead which was starting to reflect their superiority.
Fylde then managed one of their rare forays into Hoppers territory but they were unable to sustain any pressure. The home side won a scrum on half way and released the three-quarters. Kendall broke down the left wing and this time he provided an assist, allowing Marshall to grab his second. The conversion was missed this time but Preston were 26-0 ahead.
Just a few minutes later Kendall matched his kiwi team mate in grabbing his second score. The winger, in his first game back since breaking his wrist at Burnage, seized on a loose ball and raced down the left wing to score from fifty metres. Given the angle he was unable to convert his effort but it mattered not as Preston had secured the points.
Stand-off Murray provided one final flourish as his brilliantly weighted cross field kick was gathered by the waiting Kendall who was able to walk over to compete his hat trick. He was unable to add another conversion but they young student could be pleased with his afternoon’s work.
Not only did Hoppers manage their first clean sheet of the season but they have extended their wining sequence against the Hawks to 8 matches. Preston are also unbeaten since January and the result provides the perfect fillip before next week’s difficult trip to Macclesfield. Young and his men can be well satisfied with the comfortable nature of the victory and the way in which they controlled the game throughout. Given the numbers of players who are unavailable at this time Hoppers have illustrated the value of a deep and dependable squad. In other results, next week’s opponents Macclesfield crushed Caldy 50-0 at Paton Field whilst Stockport narrowly overcame Sale FC.
Finally, one sad note from Saturday was a nasty injury to Ben Rhodes-Powers. The young winger was injured in contact during the first half and is due to have surgery on his lower leg on Sunday or Monday. Everybody at Lightfoot Green wishes Ben a speedy recovery and we hope to see him back in Hoppers colours soon.