Sheffield Tigers 34-22 Preston Grasshoppers
Hoppers travelled to the bitterly cold hill tops above Sheffield hoping to emulate their winning performance at the home fixture in October. Tigers were on a run of four consecutive home victories and Dore Moor, christened ‘Mordor’ by some, had become something of a fortress for them.
With a changed line-up owing to players being unavailable, Hoppers started well, attacking their hosts from the off and keeping the play in the Sheffield half for the first ten minutes. With the pack driving their opposition, they opened the scoring with a try by the eventual man of the match, Ben Dorrington, this week playing at number eight. Will Hunt’s attempted conversion failed to hit the mark but the travelling faithful were encouraged by the start. 0 – 5.
They maintained the pressure in their hosts’ half until a momentary lack of discipline gave Sheffield an easy penalty in front of the posts. 3 – 5.
Undaunted, Hoppers pressed on and a break by Harry Swarbrick from a lineout on the Sheffield 22 extended the lead to seven points. Sadly Hunt did not have the best afternoon from the tee and again the conversion kick missed the target. 3 – 10.
With just twenty minutes gone, the travelling supporters were enjoying their trip until the Tigers started to bite.
Hoppers seemed to lose focus and with their hosts repeatedly putting phases together inside their 22, a response was inevitable.
Three converted tries in ten minutes flipped the score and with no reply from Hoppers, at half time the teams went in at 24 – 10.
The first half had been a tale of two quarters with Hoppers starting well and impressing themselves on the Sheffield pack. Then the home side applied their own pressure, putting good phases together, breaking tackles to gain territory, and with Hoppers’ needlessly kicking the ball away when in possession, coupled with their old nemesis of indiscipline handing penalties to their hosts, the lead was rapidly forfeited.
Whilst the game had been fairly evenly matched, the second half started badly for the visitors when their hosts, after several minutes camped on the Preston line, were awarded a penalty try and the gap widened to three converted tries, 31 – 10.
Things didn’t improve as Hoppers’ full back, Ben Pearson left the field injured after a hefty collision and, having been treated for some minutes, he was replaced by Will Clapham, who had himself been substituted by Tyler Spence only a few minutes earlier.
The game then descended into a rather dull affair with neither side making much progress, the flow being marred by a trail of penalties and re-set scrums as the play staggered back and forth in the middle third.
Sheffield added to their tally with a further penalty before order began to be restored by Hoppers with two tries in five minutes.
The first was by club captain Alastair Murray, making his two hundred and fiftieth appearance in a Preston jersey, when he drove over after a prolonged period of pressure by the Hoppers’ forwards. His effort was rewarded by the only conversion of the afternoon for the visitors as Hunt found his accuracy at last.
With the team now keeping the ball in hand they were able to run at the Tigers and a break by Dorrington from inside his 22 to deep into the Sheffield half set Hunt away to pass to the flying Jacob Browne who outpaced the defending Tigers’ winger to take the final points of the match.
Dan was pleased with much of the performance:
“We started well. We got on top and despite a lapse in defence in the second quarter when they came back strongly, we were still in the game at half time. In the last quarter, keeping the ball in hand, we played well and came away with another point. With a week off now and players coming back, we will go to the re-arranged match at Fylde with confidence”.
With the teams below Hoppers in the table failing to gain any points from their games, today’s result maintains the position at twelfth but, with some uncertainty about the number of teams being relegated at the end of the season, a couple of good points wins would be very welcome.
The 1869 Club are aiming to take a coach to Fylde for the rescheduled game in two weeks’ time on the 11th February, so check the noticeboard and sign up early.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Mike Craig