Hoppers put relegated Huddersfield to the sword with an eight try victory that guarantees National 2 rugby next season.
This was a free flowing open game as Huddersfield came to play an expansive game that played right into Hoppers hands as they capitalised on mistakes and played some attractive rugby to entertain a bumper crowd.
A jubilant Garth Dew said; “I’m really chuffed with that performance, Huddersfield are down but they are not a bad side and they showed that with a recent win over Luctonians. To score eight tries and fifty points is really satisfying as it shows what we are capable of. We didn’t force things and made good decisions and were able to put on a bit of a show for a big crowd.”
“Huddersfield were trying to play from everywhere and in playing out of their own half they made some mistakes and turned the ball over and we were able to break away and finish off some chances. It’s the first time for a while we’ve been able to play on a good dry track and we showed how our attacking game has developed.”
“This is the first 50+ score while I’ve been in charge and it was great to get my first senior try for Hoppers. When we have days like these we are dangerous and if our back three get space they’ll cause problems. Lewis Allen was great filling in for Sean Taylor and Jacob Browne was fantastic on a try scoring debut.”
Hoppers started well and took their first real opportunity after a penalty for a high tackle was kicked to the corner setting up a catch and drive which Reece Tomlinson touched down. The second try minutes later down to quick hands and a good turn over inside Hoppers half as John Mackenzie and Billy Woof wrestled the ball free before good hands in midfield set Browne away down the right wing whose inside ball put Harry Reddick away. Allen converted both and added a penalty midway through the half to give Hoppers a 17 point lead.
Huddersfield were playing some expansive rugby and got their reward when Liam Parfitt sliced his way through a hole in the Hoppers defence and set up Tom Owen but that seemed to spur on Hoppers as the hosts scored three more times before the break to effectively settle the contest.
Another line-out close to the line presented Dew a chance and he stepped a Huddersfield defender well, and the bonus point was secured when Harry Moulding and Mark Murray moved the ball well down the short side to set up Browne who showed good pace and try scoring instincts to race over.
Huddersfield were again guilty of creating their own problems as they turned the ball over yet again in Hoppers territory and Sam Gale, Charles Hough and Will Lees combined to put Allen over with the final play of the half giving Hoppers a 36-7 lead at the break.
The visitors deserve a lot of credit for coming out strongly in the second half and they got an early reward when Ross Thornton powered over following a good break from replacement prop Declan Thompson. However, Hoppers again answered a Huddersfield score with one of their own as slick hands along the back line gave Hough a chance and the winger showed a good combination of pace and power to score.
Will Lees was the next to get on the score sheet, a fitting try for the hard working flanker who again had a superb game. After Hough and Browne had advanced the ball down the left wing, Lees picked a great line to latch on to a Mark Murray pass to scythe through the visitors defence.
Huddersfield got a third try when replacement Chris Bell found space after the visitors had kept the ball alive in the 22 for a long period and stretched the home defence, but it was a try from another replacement just before the end that brought the biggest cheer as John Peterson was found loitering on the wing after a line-out near the visitors line to round off the scoring with a flourish.
Looking ahead to the final two games Dew added; “Sedgley Park will be difficult but we want to put on a good show and build momentum for next season. This year was all about improving and we spoke about a target of 70 points which would allow us to finish on a real positive.”
Preston Grasshoppers 57-17 Huddersfield