Hoppers U16s 23 Fylde U16s 17
Blacksticks Blue Challenge Cup Final
Preston Grasshopper Under 16’s successfully brought their season to an end, against their closets rivals Fylde in the Lancashire Cup final. The game, played at the Lytham home of Fylde brought together the best two teams in the competition. Grasshoppers the winner of the previous two annual competitions, against a greatly improved Fylde side that had recruited heavily from around the County prior to the season commencing.
The game was played on a warm spring day and pitted schoolmate against schoolmate. Fylde dominated the early exchanges, with Hoppers appearing to let the occasion get to them. Surprisingly it was the scoring of an unconverted try by Fylde forward Toby Harrison that appeared to lift the tension from the Hoppers team, who responded immediately with a try of the own. Working the ball through the centre partnership of Harry Bashall and Charlie Abbott the ball was slipped to Owen Pye on the wing who scored in the corner.
Fylde retook the lead with a second try, again from Harrison who drove over the line. This time the conversion was made. Hoppers responded again through Jacob Browne, the Hopper Fullback made an excellent break from the halfway line, beating five defenders to score in the corner. Half time came with Fylde leading 12 – 10.
The Hoppers coaches made some slight adjustments to the style of play. Calming the players down and reminding them of the ethos that had been develop over the season. Their reward was almost immediate, with James Wood benefiting from a driving Maul, touching down to enable Hoppers to take the lead in the game for the first time, a lead they would not relinquish.
As the game developed further, the strength of the Hoppers squad began to tell as they pinned Fylde back in their own half with James Seward and Nick Johnson dominating the play. A fourth try arrived from the elusive Owen Pye, his second, after the excellent work of James Heskie and Jack Edwards. Further points came from a Bashall penalty, before Fylde scored their third try two minutes from the end of the game, but it proved to be no more than a consolation making the score 23 -17 to Grasshoppers. The final whistle enabled team captain Oliver Cureden to prepare for the lifting of the trophy for the third year running.
Certainly the bragging rights within the schools from Lytham to Lancaster, and Kirkham to Hutton will belong to the Hopper boys, but it will be done with the respect of knowing that the game was played in a way which proved to be an great advert for the Junior game in Lancashire.