Hoppers started 2016 with a draw at Heywood Road against a Sale FC side in their first season in National 2 North.
Sale have a good record at home with five of their six wins this season coming on home soil but its a tribute to Hoppers recent resurgence that they were disappointed not to have come away with more.
Speaking after the game Head Coach Garth Dew said; “That’s one that slipped away, it’s the first game back after the Christmas break and not many teams have won here so we’ll take the draw but we should have closed it out.”
“We conceded three late penalties that threw the game away and we should have handled the last ten minutes better than we did but it shows how far we’ve come that we have a disappointed set of players after an away draw.”
“We are on a nice run and the lads are full of confidence, our pack is playing well, Alan Holmes and Ally Murray both had good games with Andy Napier leading from the front. Again 9 and 10 controlled the game well and we scored some nice tries again and when you have the likes of Scott Jordan, Sean Taylor and Zav you’re going to create opportunities.”
Hoppers started well and were in front inside two minutes as Scott Jordan continued his try scoring form latching on to Mark Murray cross kick to score in the corner, Taylor converted well.
However, Sale answered back immediately as Hoppers couldn’t clear their lines from the restart and Tom Leader grounded Chris Mayors clever grubber kick. Hoppers controlled the rest of the half and nearly grabbed a second try when Holmes burst away from 40m only to be held up inches short, Hoppers did win a penalty which Taylor slotted home for a 10-7 half time lead.
Hoppers started the second half well and extended the lead with Jordan again on the end of a chip through as Taylor exploited the rush defence to set up the flying winger.
Again though Hoppers conceded just after scoring as Sale scored the first of two second half catch and drive tries with Joe Kelly touching down, Liam McGovern converted well from the touchline.
A series of mistakes by Sale allowed Hoppers to take the ball from their own try-line to a scrum on Sale’s 22 with the visitors showing good patience to build an attack before Mark Murray skilfully avoided a tackle and find Taylor on a good line for a converted try.
But Hoppers were guilty of their own mistakes allowing a McGovern penalty and another catch and drive try with replacement hooker Jake Pope grounding at the base. However, McGovern’s conversion clattered into the posts with the scores level and although Hoppers got the ball metres from the Sale line the hosts somehow managed to scramble the ball into touch.
Looking forward to a crucial month Dew said; “We have three difficult games coming up against top 4 teams but we believe we can win all our home games and will be targeting a win. Macclesfield lost this week so we can expect a backlash, it will be a big week of training ahead.”
Sale FC 22-22 Preston Grasshoppers
Photograph ©Talking Rugby Union