Sedgley Park vs PGRFC

Date: 17 September 2022

Sedgley Park 50-8 PGRFC

Hoppers made the short trip to Park Road still looking for their first point of the season. After last week’s local derby against Fylde, several of the regular squad were sidelined either through injury or illness, so it was a youthful-looking team that took to the field in the pleasant, late summer sunshine.

The lads quickly found themselves under pressure in their own 22 and two Sedgley tries from Henderson and James, in less than ten minutes, both converted by Collins, got their hosts off to a flying start and set the pattern for the match, the scoreboard showing 14 – 0.

The home side continued their attacks and whilst Grasshoppers had some short phases of possession, they failed to keep the ball and as a result, much of the play was in the Preston half.
Having been pinned inside their own half for some time, a clearing kick from Captain Jake Squirrell took Hoppers to the Sedgley 10m line where they were awarded a penalty from their hosts’ line-out which moved them on to the 22 and further phases of possession.

Another penalty, confidently struck by Fly-Half Ben Pearson from forty metres out, finally put points on the scoreboard and Hoppers were off the mark. 14 – 3

But this did little more than annoy the home side who proceeded to dominate the remaining twenty minutes with three more converted tries by Black, Bentley and captain Riley which had Hoppers trailing by thirty two points at half time. 35 – 3.

Once again the lads had found themselves up against the reality of life in the fourth tier. Indeed, at times it looked though they’d moved up two leagues as they struggled to keep pace with the intensity of the Sedgley attacks.

Nevertheless, they kept on battling and from the restart, they pressed their hosts deep in their own half and within minutes looked to have scored when the forwards lunged for the line only for the ball to be deemed to have been held up.

Undaunted, the Preston players again attacked the Sedgley 22 and despite a long series of phases which seemed to be making little progress, they were awarded a scrum from which they gained a penalty and a line-out on their hosts’ 5m line. The ball was secured and Sam Gale crossed for their only try and their last points of the afternoon as Pearson’s attempt at conversion floated wide of the upright. 35 – 8.

Sedgley were quick to react and from a scrum inside the Hoppers’ half, winger Henderson collected a pass and tore down his line to score their sixth try, which, although unconverted, moved them further up the scoreboard, 40 – 8.

With a team battling to find precious metres, the bounce of the ball can often be cruel and when, after a short period of Hoppers’ phases inside their opponents’ half, the a clearing kick from Sedgley looked to be heading towards the arms Scott Richardson in an otherwise unoccupied expanse of the pitch, it took a huge bound over his head into the path of the on-rushing Full-Back Riley, who proceeded to dart through tackles and score in the corner. 45 – 8.

Five minutes later, he repeated his performance by easily collecting a missed high pass from what had been a promising Hoppers attack to leave the score at the final whistle 50 – 8.
With Head coach Joel Unsworth grounded by Covid, it fell to Dan Orwin to sum up the Preston performance:

‘A lot of our processes are right for a lot of the game, but at the moment we maybe have ten minutes where we’re not quite on it and at this level we get punished. We saw that when we made a couple of errors and next thing we’re under our own posts despite all the good effort that had been put in. This is what we need to get better at, to be able to put in eighty-minute performances.
We do believe we have a squad that can compete at this level but today we struggled against the intensity of their attack and our defence lacked an equal intensity.
We knew that these first fixtures against established National League sides would be tough but we also know that our season won’t be defined by these opening three matches. We just need to stay positive and go through the processes.
I feel it won’t be long before we put in a really good eighty-minute performance and we’re definitely targeting Huddersfield at home next week.’

Huddersfield sit just below Hoppers in the League table having also played three matches without a win but been docked points from last season as well. Next week’s game could be one for the lads to win but their opponents will no doubt be looking to start their campaign with points on the road.
With players coming back from injury we hope to have a strong chance of a first win so let’s get behind the team and give them the support to make that happen.

Report by John Le Page, picture by Mike Craig

Sedgley Park away 17 Sep 2022

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