PGRFC vs Huddersfield

Date: 24 September 2022

Preston Grasshoppers 32-12 Huddersfield

After a difficult start to the campaign in the National League, Hoppers hosted Huddersfield who, like themselves, were bereft of a win and languished below them at the lower end of the table.

Having faced the top three teams there was a sense around the club that for the first time this season the lads were starting on a more level playing field and points might be taken.

Conditions were good with a cloudy but bright sky and although there was an early autumn nip in the air there was no wind to bother the kickers.

Huddersfield kicked off deep into their hosts’ half to pressure the Hoppers’ defence along the 5m line and despite clearing kicks and penalties (which came thick and fast throughout the game) the home side struggled to get out of their half.

Then they gained a scrum on their own 5m line and from it a penalty which was then moved up the field by the referee for backchat from the visitors. But relief was short-lived and Huddersfield came back, passing their way into the Hoppers’ half where they were awarded a penalty on the 10m line. Inside centre Milner opted to go for goal but from in front of the posts his attempt sailed wide.

The game then settled down and gradually Hoppers started to gain some ground. The scrum was working well and with several being re-set they gained penalties which allowed them to mount some telling attacks into the Huddersfield 22.

A deft chip forward from Ben Pearson from inside his own 22 had Jacob Browne racing through beyond the Huddersfield 10m line but the ball bounced unkindly and the move ended in a knock-on.

However, with the Hoppers’ pack driving their opposition at each encounter, a scrum in front of the visitors’ posts enabled Scott Richardson to shepherd the ball towards the goal line. The move was foiled when Huddersfield were penalised but the home pack went again and this time the ball was passed out and chipped forward only to float over the head of Tyler Spence racing up the wing.

Huddersfield cleared but only to their 10m line and Hoppers were able to press forward again, passing their way into the Red Zone where Luke Proctor was driven over the line. But the referee was advised by his assistant that the move was not completed and the try was not given.

Hoppers were not fazed and kept up their wave of attacks, pressing the defence across the 5m line until Olly Tripper emerged from the pile of bodies to score left of the posts. Pearson slotted the extras and Hoppers were on their way at last. 7 – 0.

Now the team were starting to roll and although the play moved back and forth in the middle third of the pitch, Hoppers kept driving forward in the scrums and mauls, recovering ground lost and pressing the Huddersfield 22.

The visitors were no push-over though and through a long series of phases they made their way into the Hoppers’ 5m line and it was the turn of the home defence to be tested. They proved equal to it with a dour resilience against the Huddersfield pressure but a yellow card shown to Sam Gale had the home side playing out the half with fourteen men.

Still, they kept their opponents at bay and when, in the last play of the half, Pearson was floored by a late tackle as he kicked the ball out of his 22, it was Huddersfield’s turn to see the yellow as their Full Back Lee was sent to the naughty step.

Hoppers had made a much better start to the game, attacking inside the Huddersfield half and exerting repeated waves of pressure on their defence. Their support play was good, the tackling was more decisive than of late and with the pack driving well in the scrums and mauls, confidence was beginning to show.

Huddersfield were not easy meat though and had made the home defence work hard but despite their visits to the Red Zone, they had been unable to score any points.

Things quickly changed in the second half.

Hoppers kicked off and Huddersfield immediately cleared to their hosts’ 10m line. Then they were awarded a penalty which took them to the 5m line and a line-out from which they drove over just inside the corner. The conversion attempt failed but it was something of a wake-up call to the Preston lads.

The game then settled down and the forwards exchanged attacks with play sweeping back and forth across the middle third. It was during this passage of play that two further yellow cards were shown, one to Huddersfield’s captain Bradley, and the other to Hoppers’ Ed Keohane who was deemed to have deliberately knocked the ball forwarded.

However, Hoppers put together a good sequence of well supported passing play which took them to within metres of the Huddersfield line only for an infringement to haul them back to the 10m line as the referee played advantage.

Pearson decided to back himself and from forty metres out, in front of the posts, he calmly swept the ball over the crossbar. 10 – 5.

The momentum was now with the home side and a few minutes later it was Ali Murray who fought his way to the line just right of the posts allowing Pearson an easy conversion to nudge his side into a useful lead. 17 – 5.

A couple of minutes later the lead was further stretched with a penalty from in front of goal by Pearson and as the clock moved into the final quarter of the match, the score stood at 20 – 5.

Huddersfield then mounted their response and battled their way into their hosts’ 22. They were awarded a penalty and from the 5m line-out they passed the ball across the field for their prop, Effiom, to score by the posts. The conversion was good and although there were only ten minutes of the game to go, Huddersfield must have thought they could come back. 20 – 12.

However, Hoppers had their own plans and almost immediately had a scrum on the Huddersfield 10m line. They then proceeded to pass their way into their opposition 22 where Will Clapham darted through the defenders for a try in the corner. Pearson’s attempt floated across the face of the posts from out on the wing but with precious few minutes remaining, Huddersfield were facing another defeat. 25 – 12.

Things didn’t improve for them either when the Huddersfield head coach was presented with a red card and sent from the field.

The match was brought to a close with an excellent cameo role from replacement hooker Harry Holden who was the last to emerge from a drive from five metres out having scored the Bonus Point try. Pearson’s conversion was the last play of the afternoon and the Hoppers faithful were rewarded with their first win of the season, the final score, 32 – 12.

After the match the coaches were quietly satisfied with the outcome.

Joel was pleased:

‘They are a pack-proud, well-coached side but our defence was outstanding in the main.  I think we looked more comfortable and better on the ball and I do believe that, had we had a couple of wins under our belt at this stage and playing with a bit more flow, that could have been a bigger score which shows that we have a great character and even if they are not playing at full flow, the team can get four tries and achieve what is a massive result for us.’

Dan was quick to applaud the attack:

‘The attacking play was much better today, the game management was good and they are making the right decisions a lot of the time. Whilst there were a few choices we made that we weren’t quite happy with, overall the improvement has been huge from last week.’


The score line didn’t flatter us. I think that was the difference between the two teams. Our set-piece was great, the scrum was outstanding and line-out was really good. We had some great individual performances today, Scott carried well, Orry put in some really big shots and Tripps is probably one of the best tight-heads in the league, just a man-mountain who leads from the front.

We’re not going to get overly excited about today’s game, it is just one win, one performance. We have to back it up with another one next week and then work through the next four games.’

With Blaydon losing today the win moves Hoppers up the table to eleventh. We go to Sheffield next week to face a side who were narrowly beaten by Chester in a low-scoring game at Hare Lane today. There will be no easy matches in this league but today will have put some confidence into both the team and their supporters who can now see that they can compete in this company. The 1869 club is sending a coach to next week’s game so sign up and get behind the lads as they start to make their way in the National League.

Report by John Le Page, pictures by Mike Craig

Huddersfield 24 Sep 2022

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