PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 90 – 5 BURNAGE
The result suggests that this game was a mis-match but visitors Burnage played some decent rugby at times and never gave up.
Head Coach Paul Arnold, in his last home game before retirement, was given a fitting send-off: ‘I’m obviously very proud of the boys today, although I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the ton! We did leave some points out there but, again, our defence was awesome and whereas our frequent line-breaks mostly ended up in points, their’s were stopped by strong cover defence which was penetrated just the once.’
Hoppers’ first of 14 tries came as early as the second minute when a strong run by Ben Dorrington was halted near the line but Toby Harrison was on hand to touch down, Ben Pearson missing the first of only two conversion failures in 12 attempts.
Burnage regained possession from the kick-off only for Jacob Browne to intercept in his 22 and run the length of the field for a converted try. Minutes later it was almost deja-vu as Browne again intercepted but unselfishly passed to supporting Tom Walker to complete the move and Pearson’s kick made the score 19-0 after just 9 minutes.
Hoppers’ pack were well on top in the tight and pressure resulted in a second touchdown for Harrison and, inevitably one for Matt Lamprey both converted to make it 33-0.
However, Burnage refused to roll over and enjoyed some possession and a superb line of running by centre Wrigley created pressure on Hoppers’ line and lock Kai Fagan forced his way over to put his side on the scoreboard at 33-5.
Hoppers responded immediately, Ben Dorrington breaking through to score and then bagging another after a strong run from Sam Gale after catching the kick-off. Inspired by his forward colleague, Oga Mabaya rumbled through mid-field and this time Sam Stott was on hand to finish the move. All converted, Hoppers had achieved the half-century at the break at 54-5.
There was no let-off for the visitors at the start of the second period as, straight from kick-off, Lamprey shrugged off several attempted tackles to get his 25th try of the campaign and minutes later it was Stott’s turn to break the defence to score his second.
Hoppers then seemed to take a breather and Burnage enjoyed a period of possession but could not break the defence and some rare close quarter exchanges led to a yellow card for each side.
But as the game drew to a close, the exhausted visitors could not keep Hoppers out and tries followed for Rob Bramall and Walker while in the dying seconds, Stott and Dorrington completed their hat-tricks making the final score 90 – 5.
Report by Ken Moore, photos by Mike Craig