On a sunny, warm spring afternoon, Hoppers closed their season with a confident display of running rugby against eleventh placed Sandal.
Words by John Le Page, photo by Mike Craig
The home side put their defeat of last week behind them and took the lead in the third minute with a driving try by Ally Murray. However, the conversion from Sam Stott was wide.
A penalty taken by James Ellar put Sandal three points to the good but straightaway some deft handling from the home side enabled Alex Ward to score and this time the conversion was good. Two minutes later Sandal had another penalty to bring the score to 12-6.
On the twentieth minute Alex Hurst ran in to score under the posts only to pull a hamstring and retire to the bench his place taken by James Fitzpatrick. Stott’s conversion was good.
The visitors were determined to keep up the pace and their speedy backs showed good handling skills however, Matt Frings’ interception enabled Sam Gale to run in the fourth try.
Sandal responded five minutes later when Simon Frewin crossed the line, Ellar converted and the score stood at 26 -13. After the restart Hoppers piled on the pressure with the forwards driving to the line and Matt Lamprey added another try to his record-breaking tally and at half time the score was 33-13
The second half saw Sandal maintaining pressure through skilful handling of the ball but the solid tackling by the home defence was equal to it.
Hoppers made changes early in the half when hooker Connor Johnson went off after four minutes replaced by Paul Millea. From a Sandal scrum on their 22 strong counter-rucking from the ensuing play moved Hoppers forward and a break by Murray gave Gale his second try, converted by Stott.
From the restart Frings broke through the opposition making good ground to put Jordan in under the posts and again Stott’s conversion was good.
Sandal’s Luke White was replaced by Tim Wickes on 54 minutes and from a Hoppers scrum on the Sandal 10m line an interception gave Nick Carolan a try for the visitors and Ella’s conversion was good.
Despite a continued effort from the visitors, four tries, two from Jordan and two from Gale sealed the emphatic win for Hoppers.
Head Coach, Paul Arnold, who made a cameo performance from the bench for the final quarter, reflected on the season: “A great climax to a great season. All credit to Sandal, they are a useful side but it was our day today – we needed it after last week’s loss. Speaking personally, it was a difficult decision to leave Fylde at the end of last season but I think it was the right move for me. We have a great group of players here and the support has been massive, on and off the field. We now need to concentrate on our return to level 4 where there will no doubt be some different challenges but we are losing only two from the squad and maybe need just a couple of signings. I am looking forward to a return to training in June!”