Preston Grasshoppers vs Rossendale

Date: 20 November 2021

Preston Grasshoppers 26-6 Rossendale

The weather forecast was accurate for once with the rain starting as predicted just as the teams lined up for a minute’s silence in memory of Donny Sutherland, a great man, a great coach and a great Hopper. He will be missed by all who came in contact with him at the Club he loved to be part of.

There was a good crowd in the stand (and another inside the club) as Hoppers kicked off. Rossendale cleared to their own 10m line but when the ball was thrown in it was a visitor’s hand that tipped it away. Fortunately for the home side, the ball went forward so they had the first scrum of the match.

Then there was a sign of what was to come when Matt Lamprey secured the ball and began a passing move to Sam Stott who then moved it on to Tom Walker in the line, across to Tyler Spence and out to Jordan Dorrington on the wing. He was tackled into touch but Hoppers had moved into the Rossendale 22.

From the line-out the visitors then worked their own passing play which took them up to their hosts’ 22 and a scrum, fifteen metres out, and in front of the posts.

They were awarded a penalty and from directly in front Fly Half, McGovern, had the easiest of kicks to put the first points on the board.

Hoppers restarted and then a break by Lamprey took them into the opposition 10m where they gained a line-out. The ball was collected and although a delicate chip from Walker went long and was received by a defender in the in-goal area, a penalty was given to the home side. The pack started to drive and Squirrell seized the ball to score just right of the posts. Walker slotted the conversion to get Hoppers up and running. 7 – 3.

By now the rain was making the ball slippery for both teams and good passing phases were thwarted by fumbled collections. Knocks-on were frequent and scrums and penalties were a regular event as both sides looked to play running rugby.

It was from one of these scrums that Hoppers again got near when Lamprey peeled from the base and fed it to Harry Holden in a move which took play back and forth across the Rossendale 5m line.

The ball, won and lost by both sides in turn was eventually cleared to touch on the Rossendale 10m line. Hoppers took the throw but the in ensuing moves their visitors stole it and looked to clear when a brilliant catch by Walker started another fast passing move as Stott took the ball forward and then kicked forward for Matt Crow to race on only for it to be lost into touch.

Play continued with attacks from both sides moving it up and down the pitch. Eventually Rossendale were awarded a penalty on the Hoppers’ 22 in front of the posts for which Pete Altham was shown a yellow card along with Rossendale number 4, Earnshaw. The score moved on to 7 – 6 courtesy of the boot of McGovern and remained there as the whistle blew for the end of the half.

Rossendale started the second period. Squirrell caught the ball and kicked up field finding touch at half way. Here Chris Taylor made his return from injury when he replaced Harry Holden and just two minutes later he had his try on the board, the result of a solid drive from a line-out on the opposition 22.

Walker added the extras to move the lead to eight points. 14 – 6.

The pattern of scrums and line-outs was beginning to favour the home side as they drove the Rossendale pack almost at will. The third try was not long in coming when, after another series of scrums a great take by Oga Mbaya set Stott racing through the defence and into the Rossendale Red Zone where the move was completed by Sam Gale under the posts. Once again Walker was accurate and as the final quarter approached Hoppers were looking solid. 21 – 6.

The game was played in the Rossendale half for most of the rest of the match as Hoppers pressurized their visitors’ defence and the Bonus Point try came in the sixty-first minute. A penalty kick took play up to the Rossendale 5m line from where Toby Harrison crossed to the left of the uprights. The conversion attempt in what was now torrential rain from wide out towards the wing failed and despite a late yellow card shown to Ben Dorrington, at full time Hoppers had the five points they wanted.

It was a happy Head Coach who gave his thoughts after the match:

‘Firstly, we talked about doing it for Donny because it was his funeral yesterday, and a quite emotional day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many grown men cry.

In the huddle after the match I said to the lads that he would have been proud of that second half and so am I but I also explained that Wirral next week is going to be as big a dogfight as it was in the first half today.

They got a bit of a wake-up call in the break as the penalties were stacking up again and the score was 7 – 6 but in the second half, I don’t think they got into our half of the field. I’m really happy. There were some big performances out there, certainly by the front row and the pack altogether. We stuck to the game plan and with Jake Squirrell and Sam Stott having a storming season and the little tweaks we have made, putting Jordan Dorrington on the wing, coupled with Jacob Browne at full back I think are paying off now.

We have to maintain our focus. There are games that we are expected to win because we’re near the top and it’s about keeping that focus and working hard all the way through.’

There is an 1869 coach going to Wirral next week so sign up and get behind the team again but let’s hope the weather is a little more kind……!

Report by John Le Page, pictures by Mike Craig Rossendale 20 Nov 2021


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