Preston Grasshoppers vs Sandal

Date: 22 January 2022

Preston Grasshoppers 31-10 Sandal

The 1st XV are now on a good run of winning results and before the match, team Captain, Christian Taylor voiced his thoughts about the coming fixtures.

‘We’ve spoken within the squad about our performance and we feel that if we perform as we capable of doing we shouldn’t really be worried about anyone in the league. That being said, we do due diligence on the opposition to make sure we are fully aware of them, but it’s very much focussed around ourselves at the moment which I feel is really coming to the fore on the pitch. You can tell that we’re not letting other people impact on our playing style or our defence so it’s going really well.

After the York game we sorted out one or two concerns which, as we saw last week, made for a very successful team effort. We’ve changed the way we’re training now, it’s a lot more active, high tempo, short, sharp, and snappy which is benefitting us and confidence is very high’

Conditions were cold but dry with little or no breeze to hamper the kickers when the teams ran out in front of a large crowd of spectators.

Sandal kicked off and Hoppers were immediately on the attack with a fast, running play which took them beyond their visitors’ 10m line before the ball was hacked into touch by a Sandal player. It was a taste of what was to come.

Minutes later, a break by Matt Lamprey from inside his own half took the play into the Sandal 22 and was only halted by one of the seemingly endless stream of penalties that were to feature throughout the afternoon.

Hoppers were already making telling forays into their opposition’s half and with just ten minutes gone Lamprey peeled from the base of his own scrum inside the Preston 22 and broke through several tackle attempts to reach beyond the Sandal 10m. He passed to the supporting Ben Dorrington who made the 22 before giving the ball to his brother, Jordan to score the first try just right of the post. Alex Ward stepped up to convert but unfortunately got under the ball which wobbled wide of the upright. 5 -0.

Hoppers were given an early advantage when the Sandal number 7 was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Sam Stott as he made good ground with a break from his own 22, battling through several tackles before being stopped by the foul.

It wasn’t long before Hoppers were again attacking inside the Sandal 22 as from a scrum on their own 22, the ball was won against the head, (the first of several such wins in the game) and Harry Moulding quickly moved it up the field. The attack was only halted on the visitor’s 5m line with a knock-on and a scrum to the defending pack.

The ball was stolen by Lamprey who dodged the remaining defender to score under the post. This time Ward was untroubled by the simple conversion and with a quarter of the match gone the score stood at a healthy 12 – 0.

From the restart, Hoppers had a line-out and Stott, linking in a blazing run with Jacob Browne, again penetrated the Sandal 22, the attack halted by yet another knock-on.

There then followed a period of fairly intense forward attacking play which ended with a hack forward from Toby Harrison which was fumbled by the Sandal defender allowing Lamprey (for it was he) to score his second try, this time just outside the upright.

Again Ward was on the money and at the half hour mark Hoppers were in control at 19 -0.

Sandal were not down and mounted their own fast attack which rewarded them with a penalty short of their hosts’ 22 in front of goal. Their inside centre, Adams, backed himself and put the first points on the board much to the delight of the visiting supporters. 19 -3.

The restart didn’t go well for Sandal as the high kick, watched carefully by the receiving player was dropped which started another wave of attacking play by Hoppers.

A searing, trade-mark break by Tyler Spence from his own 15m line into the opposition 22, resulted in a line-out for Sandal as he was tackled into touch. The ball was secured by Hoppers who then moved it along the line until play was halted with a knock-on and a scrum. The home pack gained a penalty from the scrum but from the line-out and drive the referee awarded another penalty to Sandal.

Although they had been driven back by this, Hoppers immediately attacked again with Stott ripping through tackles into the Sandal 22 before the home side players were deemed guilty of crossing.

The respite for the visitors was only brief as Browne made another long break to feed Stott and take play up to the Red Zone where the forwards took over and in a relentless series of pick-and-go moves, finally put Ben Dorrington in at the corner. Ward’s conversion attempt looked perfectly judged from wide on the wing until it glanced the top of the upright and fell back and as the teams headed for the sheds the score was 24 -3.

Hoppers had controlled the game almost from the start and as the points racked up, they were playing with confidence and some flair. Breaks from all over the field by forwards and backs had Sandal defending at just about every turn. They had not capitulated but had been out-tackled and out-played for the greater part of the half.

The second half started with a change for the home side as Ali Murray was replaced by Sam Gale who was immediately involved as he collected the return from the Hoppers’ kick off.

The ball was fed to the charging Browne who again tore into the Sandal half before passing to Ward who then moved it out to Spence to race down his wing to the corner only to be held up on the line.

Hoppers continued their waves of attacks but were repulsed by a dogged Sandal defence and it was approaching the final quarter of the match before the scoreboard was troubled.

A wild pass from the Hoppers’ defence inside their own 22 was stolen by the Sandal prop Edler who dropped over the line under the posts. The conversion was good and Sandal’s score was looking a little better. 24 -10.

The last ten minutes were all Hoppers as they pressed the Sandal Red Zone again and again. With just a minute remaining, the last play of the match had Stott getting his reward for the work during the match as he took a pass on the 22 and ran in just left of the post. Ward secured the extras and at the final whistle Hoppers were victors with a score of 31 -10.

Arnie looked excitedly pleased after the game:

‘The first half was good. The pleasing thing for me was that when we were in the huddle after the match it was like we’d lost! That’s how much they know they’ve let themselves down. In the second half we kind of went through the motions, I did say to them that they’d just won by 31 points to 10 but I could see that they were disappointed.

That’s the benchmark, we’ve got another five points and Billingham have lost today which puts us into second place so they should be smiling but they were still unhappy about that second half.

It was good that we were able to give Declan Norrington his first full game and I thought he did really well. Ben Dorrington played 9, 12, and 7 and got a full eighty minutes in and I think we’ve come through relatively unscathed with injuries so that’s good.

Stand out players today were Lamprey again and Stott, I think they’ve set a benchmark for most of the season and I was quite shocked to read that Matt is now third in the all-time try-scoring list for the club and has done that in just four full seasons.

The back three also deserve a mention. As well as the obvious points scoring, I think sometimes you forget the work they do in defence and they’re really gutted that Sandal were able to score a daft try towards the end but we’ve only concede two tries in the last four games.

I liken them to a pack of hyenas, they work hard and they scrap for everything and I think that shows the attitude of the team. If someone misses a tackle there’s two of the lads chasing back to make it ours again, it’s that mentality that keeps us going forward.

Billingham next week will be another tough one and after the week off we have Blackburn, Lymm and Rossendale so we need to keep focussed and take it week by week.’

The 1869 coach is going to Billingham (let’s hope it makes it back this time!) so sign up and support the lads as they go forward.

Report by John Le Page, pictures by John Shirras

Preston Grasshoppers v Sandal - 22 Jan 22

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