Preston Grasshoppers 39-41 Sheffield Tigers
Preston Grasshoppers’ wait for a first home win of the season continued after Sheffield Tigers nicked a 41-39 win at the death on Saturday at Lightfoot Green.
Hoppers were returning to action after a two-break, hoping to make amends for the heavy defeat at Leeds Tykes last time out, which saw them drop to 12th place.
Tries from Josh Longson, Will Hunt, Jacob Browne and a Jack Wilkinson double were enough to secure two bonus points but not the full complement of points that Preston sought.
Tigers fly-half Mark Ireland missed an opportunity to open the scoring after three minutes with a penalty which sailed wide, and Hoppers were soon leading when Wilkinson touched down from a maul.
Ellis Causey was disrupting the visitor’s line-out, but they regained a foothold in the game after Barney Goatley powered over from five metres out.
A penalty from Hunt restored Hoppers’ lead before Longson scored from another rolling maul to put Preston 15-7 up at the interval.
Goatley provided the perfect response for Tigers after the break with a second try from close range, set up by Connor Scott’s barnstorming run.
But Hoppers were not to be deterred, and Wilkinson continued their threat from rolling mauls with the third try for the hosts.
The end-to-end action continued with Joshua Redfern diving over to score on 51 minutes before Hunt responded by finding a gap to touch down and stretch the lead four minutes later.
Hoppers lost control of proceedings in the last quarter, with Jacob Browne sin-binned by referee Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts for a deliberate knock-on.
Tigers scored 13 points in Browne’s absence with a try from William Archer and two Ireland penalties to hand them the advantage.
Browne quickly made amends for his yellow card when he scored in the 75th minute after Hunt shipped the ball wide to regain the lead, and the Preston fly-half added a penalty with little time left.
Tigers did not lose faith, and talisman Goatley snuck over the whitewash to even the score, with Ireland kicking the conversion to break Hoppers’ hearts.
Preston’s failure to seal the victory left Director of Rugby Alex Keay frustrated.
He said: “The game was done.
“It was just a simple process, kick the ball out of play.
“And then give away a soft penalty, picking the ball up and playing out the back, which was just ridiculous.
“We didn’t need to do it.”
Hoppers drop to 13th with a trip to the bottom of the table side Huddersfield next weekend.
Report by Ben Pitkeathly, pictures by Mike Craig