Preston Grasshoppers 6-22 Fylde
Preston Grasshoppers still seek their first point of the National League Two North season after two yellow cards proved costly in the first half of the derby duel with Fylde.
Flanker Sam Gale was sinbinned as early as the fifth minute and Fylde immediately capitalised with an unconverted try by skipper Ben Gregory. Then, as half-time approached, there was another yellow for centre Ed Keohane, who endured a strange home debut.
Arriving late because of traffic problems, he came on as a replacement, only to depart to the sinbin soon afterwards for a high tackle. Fylde took full advantage of his 10-minute absence to add further tries by winger Tom Grimes and scrum-half Matt Sturgess, the second converted by Greg Smith.
So, although fly-half Ben Pearson had landed two penalties for the home side, they went into the break 6-17 behind.
In a rather scrappy second half, the only further score was an unconverted try for former Hoppers back Jordan Dorrington.
Home head coach Joel Unsworth was comparatively upbeat, despite this second defeat in a tough start to the campaign. “I’m proud of the lads, despite my disappointment,” he said. “I’m especially proud of our defensive work, which was light years better than last week.
“The scrum functioned well; I’m really pleased with the lads. Olly Trippier, Dan Madden and Noah Miller were outstanding in the front row, No 8 Scott Richardson was devastating around the park and Declan Norrington brought a lot of energy in the back row.
“I can look forward with more positivity – we are moving in a good direction and I think there’s no team we need to fear in this league.”
Unsworth is also happy with the strength of his squad, saying: “There’s not a lot of difference between the first team and some in the seconds. I could bring in five or six without affecting the quality.”
Fylde coach Alex Loney said he was happy with another five points even though his side “are not quite hitting their full straps yet. We are still a bit sticky in terms of fluidity.”
Fylde launched the first attack, with Adam Lanigan making good ground before being forced into touch. But Smith and Dorrington skilfully put Gregory over.
One problem for Hoppers was the line-out, with several lost close to the visitors’ line, and one of them led to a long-range try, finished off by Grimes. Great work by Smith put Sturgess in for the third.
With the comings and goings from the benches resembling rush hour at Preston Station, and a growing tally of penalties, the game lost a lot of its shape.
But Dorrington claimed the bonus point against his former team-mates as the errors mounted on both sides.
Report by Paul Outhwaite, pictures by Mike Craig