Rossendale 0 – 67 Preston Grasshoppers
Hoppers travelled to Rossendale where they chalked up their fifth ‘victory to nil’ of the season as they continued their quest for promotion.
Eleven tries, along with six conversions, sealed the win against a Rossendale side who, having been beaten by just twenty points in the previous encounter at Lightfoot Green, were stunned by two early tries and had little to offer in response.
The early Spring weather was pleasant with bright sunshine, relatively good ground conditions and a breeze just strong enough to make kicking tricky from out on the wings.
From their kick off the visitors were ruthless in their domination and most of the match was played deep inside the Rossendale final third. Indeed, the score could have been even greater if five of Ben Pearson’s conversion attempts had not been confounded by that swirling breeze blowing across the exposed Marl Pits pitch.
Hoppers stamped their mark on the game when they secured the ball from their kick off and, playing down the slope, swarmed towards the Rossendale line where they gained a lineout on their hosts’ 5m line. The forwards drove towards the try line where Matt Lamprey broke the defence and passed to Chris Taylor to score under the posts. Pearson slotted the extras and after only two minutes Rossendale were chasing the game, 0 – 7.
From the restart, the Hoppers’ forwards passed their way into their hosts’ 22 where Jordan Dorrington broke through to the 5m line and a penalty was awarded as he was fouled in the tackle. Hoppers elected to scrum and the ball came out to Sam Stott and then moved from Dorrington to Jacob Browne and on to Will Clapham who dived over in the corner. The wind foiled the conversion attempt but the score ticked on to 0 – 12.
Rossendale’s restart did not make the required ten metres and although Hoppers had the scrum on half way, their hosts were awarded a penalty and elected to kick for goal. However, even with the wind in their favour, the ball sailed past the posts.
Hoppers then faced a rare Rossendale attack into their half but they stole the ball and cleared to the 5m line where they resumed their own assault. With the play moving back and forth across the 22, Hoppers were awarded another penalty resulting in a lineout on their hosts’ 5m line.
The ball was secured by Toby Harrison, passed to Lamprey who pressed for the line before giving it to Sam Gale to score in the corner. Although Pearson sensibly kept his kick low to avoid the wind, once again he was foiled as it was pushed past the upright, 0 – 17.
Play became a little fractious as the home side began to show their frustration and the referee stopped the clock to speak to both captains.
The game resumed with a scrum on the Hoppers’ 10m line. Lamprey broke away to the Rossendale 22 where yet another penalty was given to the visiting side. From the lineout on the 5m line, Hoppers moved across the field and gained a scrum. The ball came out to Dorrington who broke through the defence to score the Bonus Point try mid-way between the post and the corner flag. The conversion failed again but the score ticked on steadily, 0 – 22.
The fifth try came just four minutes later when a break by Pete Altham, who, swatting players aside, took the play to the Rossendale Red Zone and a scrum to the home side.
Rossendale were looking to break out when Harrison intercepted a pass and, streaking through the remaining players, raced to the try line to score left of the posts. This time Pearson secured the extras putting Hoppers into a commanding lead with less than ten minutes of the half to play, 0 – 29.
Rossendale didn’t help themselves at all as their discipline began to fail and three yellow cards were shown. Firstly, one each to their centre, Cave and Preston’s Altham after a bout of ‘handbags’ and then another, this time to their number eight, Canning, all in the space of five minutes.
The last try of the half fell to Clapham who showed some serious speed when he received the ball on the half way line and left all in his wake to score in the corner. The conversion attempt was again foiled by the wind and, although from an attack from the restart, Lamprey was held up on the line, the score at half time was 0 – 34.
The Preston side had shown their quality throughout the half with linking plays penetrating the Rossendale defence time and again. Play had been in and around the Rossendale 22 for much of the period with only minor incursions by the home side moving play away from danger. Their backs were quick when they had the ball but the Hoppers’ defence proved that they were no match and every attempt to break through was stopped in its tracks.
The second half resumed the pattern of the first and, even playing up the slope, Hoppers had added to their tally within ten minutes when Taylor battled his way into the Rossendale 22 before passing to Lamprey. He moved the ball to Tyler Spence who was tackled high but squirmed away and scampered through the defence to score by the left hand post. Pearson stroked the ball over the bar, 0 – 41.
Seven minutes later Hoppers had their eighth when a fast linking play from Jacob Browne to Jordan Dorrington and back to Browne had him crossing the line under the posts. The conversion was good, 0 – 48.
Rossendale must have been willing the final whistle to go but there were still twenty minutes to play when the ninth try was scored. Once again it was Harrison who, after receiving the ball from a tapped penalty on the home 22, shot through the defensive line to make the try just right of the posts. The conversion then took the total to 55 with no answer and Rossendale had the restart yet again.
It was Harrison who collected the kick on his own 22 and gave the ball to Sam Stott to break through several tackles before being awarded a penalty on the Rossendale 10m line.
Hoppers had the lineout and Stott headed into the Red Zone but the home side managed a turnover and were awarded a scrum. However, the ball was won by Harrison who passed to Lamprey who then shipped it to the supporting Sam Gale to score towards the corner. Although the conversion swung away left of the uprights, the tenth try took the score to 0 – 60.
The final try was the result of Harrison again securing the restart kick and then passing to Jordan Dorrington who crossed the half way line before feeding Clapham. He gained the 5m line and passed to Stott for his try under the posts in the seventieth minute. The conversion was good, 0 – 67.
It was only in the final minutes that the home side managed to mount a serious attack inside the Preston Red Zone. They put together fifteen attacking phases but these merely served to take them back and forth across the pitch as the solid defence kept them at bay. The referee’s final whistle was more than welcome as, with two players down, injured, Rossendale had given their all to no avail.
Arnie was full of praise for the team:
‘Another ‘nil’ and, as I said to the lads just now, when we’re 67 – 0 up and they have fifteen phases inside our 5m line, and our lads are absolutely working as hard as they can to make sure they do not score, that’s the sign of a committed team who are playing for each other.
I was really proud of them today. I knew that if we started well, the Rossendale heads would drop and I felt we played some really good stuff this afternoon.’
The lads resume their campaign in two weeks’ time when they take on Wirral at Lightfoot Green where, with only four matches left, they will look to consolidate their place in the promotion race with Otley whose lead at the top has now been reduced to just three points.
Report by John Le Page, pictures by Mike Craig