Hoppers fell to back to back victories as a much changed side were narrowly beaten by a Leicester Lions side looking to make the playoffs.
With a number of injuries over recent weeks Hoppers were once again forced to make changes and it’s a credit to the depth of the squad that they ran one of the top four so close. Once again the scrum was a real weapon and with Leicester racking up the penalties in the opening half they were lucky to only have one man sent to the bin, but the Lions showed their top 4 credentials with a solid second half performance.
After the game Garth Dew said; “People may look to the number of players that we had missing but we had our chances to win this game. We just weren’t fit enough in the final stages and that’s something we’ll be working on.”
“We played a game without a recognised scrum half having to move Billy Woof from centre and credit must go to the way he performed. Once again we had scrum dominance and with the amount of penalties in the first half there could have been more cards.”
“This was a very physical game and Leicester are very street wise but there were a number of cheap shots in particular the one on Pete Altham after he scored a try which meant he had to come off with John Peterson having to move over to tight head which destabilised our dominant scrum.”
“We’ll take the positives from this though; again Will Lees and Andy Napier were fantastic. Sam Gale is a young lad who taking his chances and we have a number of young lads getting a real taste of National League rugby.”
Hoppers started well following a huge Altham tackle and a great scrum allowing Sean Taylor to open his account with a well struck penalty. After a long period in the 22 Leicester scored a try through Joe Collingham when a quick tapped a strange 5m scrum penalty and snuck over.
Sam Benjamin nearly made it two tries in two minutes for the visitors when he sprinted down the wing only for Taylor to come across and make a superb tackle. Hoppers settled and once again took control of the game with the visitors cynically conceding penalties and disregarding the offside line and they were finally reduced to 14 when Matt Tuckey was yellow carded after the teams ninth penalty within 35 minutes.
Hoppers proceeded to shove the Lions pack back over their line from a 5m scrum giving Luke Proctor the simplest of tries. Taylor added the extras and Hoppers had a 10-5 lead going into the break.
Leicester came out strong in the second half and again benefited from a dubious decision, being awarded a scrum at a breakdown when Hoppers had won the ball and at least 3 Leicester players were over the top off their feet. Ben Spokes finally powered over for the try after a number of pick and drives.
Hoppers responded immediately when Taylor and Lewis Allen returned a poor clearing kick before good work from the forwards dragged in the defence and Ally Murray’s clever offload set up Altham for a great team score giving Hoppers a seven point lead.
However, the lead barely lasted ten minutes as Luke Veebel went over after running a nice line onto a delayed pass to slice through the home defence. John Boden finally landed a conversion and minutes later he got what turned out the winning penalty.
Looking forward Dew added; “We are going to have five or six lads coming back from injury in the next couple of weeks so once again their will be a real competition for places. We welcome Luctonians next week and they have brought a few in on loan and they’ll be doing whatever it takes to get out of the bottom three, but it’s vital we pick up a win and don’t get dragged back into the scrap at the bottom.”
Preston Grasshoppers 17-20 Leicester Lions