Scunthorpe 7 – 30 Preston Grasshoppers
Hoppers travelled to Scunthorpe fully aware that with both teams occupying the foot of National League 2 North, this was a vitally important match if either of them were to start the long climb to safety.
From the Scunthorpe kick off Hoppers showed their intent with a fast break from Scott Jordan and Jake Squirrell moving deep into their hosts’ half where they maintained pressure for most of the first period. They moved the ball quickly, repeatedly gaining ground and whilst the Scunthorpe defence was resolute, it was good to see phases being put together without so many of the handling errors which have dogged the side all season.
Hoppers had the first attempt on goal after just five minutes and whilst Tom Davidson struck the ball confidently, it slipped past the upright denying him the opening points.
Undeterred, from the Scunthorpe dropout, Hoppers moved forward and with the referee playing advantage they moved the ball swiftly through a series of deft passing moves to gain a penalty on the 5m line in front of the post.
This time there was no mistake and Davidson quickly put three points on the board.
Scunthorpe restarted but immediately found themselves defending constant attacks from the Preston forwards and whilst they made short forays into their visitors’ half, play was mainly on and around their own 22 for much of the first thirty minutes with the forwards battling for territory.
From a Scunthorpe scrum on Hoppers’ 22 the visitors secured the ball and broke away with Chris Taylor combining with Ryan Carlson and Sam Wallbank to take them beyond their hosts’ 10m line. The attack was only halted when a well-timed kick forward just inched out on the full.
Then the balance of the game was dramatically changed when two yellow cards shown to Hoppers’ Wallbank and then Jordan in the space of four minutes gave the home side real impetus and with five minutes of the half remaining their fly half, Foster, took a quick tap penalty in front of the posts and dived over the line. Full back Cook converted to put Scunthorpe into a slim lead but Grasshoppers, having had the majority of possession for most of the half and down to thirteen players, replied with their own penalty and the teams went to the sheds with the score at 7 – 6.
With the side restored to fifteen, Hoppers began the second half with renewed determination. Davidson now controlled the game, finding space with his kicking and marshalling his troops through wave after wave of attacks from which the travelling supporters were at last rewarded for their efforts this season. The first of four tries came only two minutes into the half when from a Scunthorpe lineout on half way Hoppers were awarded a penalty. Davidson found touch on his opposition’s 22 and the drive from the lineout had Chris Taylor touching down in the corner. The conversion from wide on the wing was good and now Hoppers had the bit between their teeth.
It was just three minutes later when Taylor was in again at the same corner and although the conversion slid past the upright, Hoppers now had a commanding eleven point lead.
Scunthorpe rallied and had a rare period of pressure inside the Hoppers’ 22 and managed to attack their visitors’ try line. When the ball was eventually secured to Davidson, his clearing kick from the in-goal area was charged down but from the ensuing scrum Hoppers were awarded a penalty which was then moved a further 20m up the pitch as the referee took exception to one of the Scunthorpe players’ comments on his decision. Will Davidson cleared towards the Scunthorpe 22 where the ball was gathered by a racing Jordan Dorrington who looked to be clear to the line when he was unceremoniously bundled into touch.
Hoppers’ pressure was rewarded shortly after when the forwards drove the line and Ally Murray scored their third try. This time it was the upright that foiled the kick but the score ticked on to 7 – 23.
Murray collected the restart kick and fed out to Sam Stott who broke the defence and tore up the pitch passing to Nick Gregson to make further ground before giving the ball to Taylor to cross the line for what appeared to be the bonus point try. However, to the surprise of all the spectators, the ball was deemed to be held up.
Then, with only ten minutes of the match left, a break by Jordan Dorrington took Hoppers into the Scunthorpe half where he passed the ball to, who else but the supporting Taylor, and this time the try was good. Davidson completed the exercise and with Hoppers dominating the rest of the game it finished with a five bonus point, 7 – 30 win.
After the match Arnie appeared to be in tears (however it was quickly apparent he had a streaming cold!) but he was obviously pleased (Oh yes he was!),
‘As I have stated several times this is a strong league and I have said to all the lads that from now on every game is a cup final.
Fair play to Scunthorpe, they took advantage of the two yellow cards but after their try we repelled all their attacks and going in at 7 – 6 the game was there for the taking.
I thought TD controlled the second half very well and with the possession we had we deserved the win
I am immensely proud of the whole team. They played with real confidence today and showed just what they can do. Now we must press on. The next three games are winnable and we will be fighting for the points.’
Next Saturday is the second of the back-to-back away fixtures but now that Hoppers are unbeaten in 2020 we can make the trip to the windy heights at Sheffield with anticipation that the climb out of the relegation zone can continue.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Bill Rhoades