Hoppers stopped a run of four straight defeats with a bonus point win away at struggling Sandal. After a difficult few weeks with results and performances going against them they managed to leave Yorkshire with the full five points and move up to eighth in the table.
Sandal played some attractive rugby and controlled the possession and territory for large parts but Hoppers defended well against their expansive game plan and scored tries from first phase play and turnovers.
Head coach Garth Dew was delighted with the win, saying; “we are proud of that performance, especially the defence but to be honest we made hard work of it, once again we weren’t helped by losing a key player early to injury and having to play with a winger at scrum half but credit to Scott Jordan who again did well.”
“There are lessons to be learned from this but we upped the tempo in training knowing it would be a quick game and our backs performed and scored some nice tries, the final try being down to great work from Harry Reddick and Sean Taylor.”
“Yet again we showed what a dominant scrum we have but we need to improve in other areas, but we’ve got the five points away against a Sandal team who play nice rugby.”
Things didn’t start well for Hoppers as a couple of missed tackles in midfield got Sandal into the 22 before a nice pass from the impressive fly half Greg Wood put Simon Frewin over for the score, which Wood converted.
However, Hoppers answered straight back with a try of their own as Sandal couldn’t handle an up-and-under allowing Jordan to collect and set up Taylor to sprint down the touch line. Hoppers moved ahead midway through the half as a line-out on the Sandal 10m line was quickly moved out by the backs and good hands in the midfield put Charles Hough into space and the wingers combination of pace and power put him over. Taylor was unlucky with the conversions from the touchline, hitting the post with both efforts. A Wood penalty levelled the scores and the teams went into the break at 10-10.
Hoppers made a good start to the second half as defensive pressure and turnovers lead to two scores. A stolen ball just outside their own 22 allowed Dew to feed Jordan, whose pace beat the defence, before a well timed pass put Taylor into space for a converted try.
Wood reduced the gap with a penalty, but missed an easier chance minutes later and it proved costly as Hoppers again turned over the ball in their own half launching a swift counter attack and Reddick and Taylor combined superbly down the right wing to put Mark Murray away for the bonus point score. Sandal would get back into losing bonus point range when James Briscoe touched down a catch and drive but Hoppers hung on for victory.
Dew added: “It will be a different kind of game next week as South Leicester have a heavy pack and like to keep it a tight game and that coupled with the long trip will make it a difficult match. However, with a scrum that is such a tool for us we feel that we can take on anyone and we’ll be going looking for a win.”
Sandal 20-24 Preston Grasshoppers