Sedgley Park Tigers 15 – 3 Preston Grasshoppers
Hoppers and their faithful supporters made the short trip to Sedgley Park looking to reverse the narrow victory their opposition had won at Lightfoot Green in August.
In front of a vociferous crowd and in miserable, wet conditions they made a promising start with a series of attacks pinning the Tigers deep inside their half for the first ten minutes of the game.
However, the Sedgley defence remained solid and when they finally cleared the ball it was their forwards’ turn to pressure the Hoppers’ line.
From then, as has been the case in this tightly competitive league, the game settled into a fairly even tussle for possession and territory with neither side dominating in any area.
With the play wandering back and forth, for over half an hour the match was an uneventful affair until, from a lineout on Hoppers’ 22m line, the Tigers drove towards the posts number 12 Matthew Riley touched down, Stephen Collins converted and Preston were 7 -0 down.
The travelling supporters’ hopes were raised when, with a minute to go to half time, the Sedgley prop, Black was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. From the penalty, Hoppers found touch for a lineout on the Tigers’ 5m line and had a real chance to drive for the line and square the score only to throw the ball to the tail where it was lost and the half finished with the score at 7 – 0.
The game had been a typical example of two mid-table sides scrapping for points with neither team gaining a major advantage. In the wet, cold conditions the crowd must have been hoping for a better second half.
Preston re-started the game brightly and from a series of phases on the Sedgley 22 they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. Davidson tee’d the ball up only to see it float wide of the upright. A rare chance missed.
Sedgley responded immediately as winger Lowthion collected the restart and broke to the Preston 22. The Tigers were awarded a penalty kick for offside which Collins’ stroked over the crossbar and the score inched on to 10 – 0.
Play then resumed its flat and, frankly un-entertaining pattern. With Sedgley slowing the ball down and Hoppers struggling to find a way forward, it became a very flat serving of penalties and scrums which did little to raise any excitement in the stand but for the one three- pointer that did go over for the visitors.
A ray of light glimmered briefly when after seventy-three minutes, Preston wing, Tyler Spence collected a long clearance inside his own half.
Usually fleet-footed, he set off on one of his trademark sprints only to slip on the greasy surface. The lost ball was picked up by his opposite number, Lowthion who then ran the length of the Hoppers’ half to score in the corner. Collins missed the conversion from wide on the wing but with five minutes to go the chance of a Hoppers’ losing bonus point was lost.
After the match Head Coach Paul Arnold commented, ‘After a good start we had too many errors. It was very disappointing. They are a good side and we struggled to break them down. At 10 – 3 it was a fair reflection of the way the game had gone but a cruel slip cost us the bonus point. The heart and effort from the team was good but the decision-making throughout the match was poor’.
This was only the second match this season where we came away without a bonus point. We now have back-to-back home games against Otley and Wharfedale and having lost narrowly to both teams away let’s hope the AGP and the crowd spur the team on to better results. Hoppers seem to be just a couple of good points wins away from securing their place in the league for next year but we need to start dominating teams in these close-fought fixtures.
Report by John Le Page,picture by Mike Craig