Sheffield Tigers vs Preston Grasshoppers

Date: 24 February 2024

Sheffield Tigers 32-26 Preston Grasshoppers

A youthful Preston Grasshoppers side suffered a 32-26 defeat on the road against Sheffield Tigers at Dore Moor.

Scores from Jack Lightowler (pictured above), Harry Holden, Tyler Spence and a late penalty try saw Hoppers pick up two bonus points in a much-improved performance.

Head Coach Alex Keay had rung the changes pre-match with first-team debuts for Will Goodier and Joe Harrison, while Rory Brand deputised for Will Hunt at fly-half.

The hosts were on top in the opening exchanges and led after five minutes when referee Henry Pearson awarded them a penalty try, which saw Preston’s Ewan Naylor sin-binned.

But Hoppers found the perfect response two minutes later after Jacob Browne made a line break to set up Lightowler for a simple finish in the left corner.

Tigers’ physicality was troubling the visitors’ defence, and they scored again with Louis Townsend breaking off a maul to touch down.

Will Baker added a penalty for the hosts in the 15th minute, but Hoppers were not to be deterred by the Yorkshire outfit’s fast start, and Holden narrowed the lead by powering over from a maul.

Preston captain Scott Richardson saw yellow in the 31st minute, and Tigers quickly took advantage when William Wallace scored from close range to make it 20-12 at the break.

A barnstorming run by Daniel Hawksworth four minutes after halftime saw Tigers immediately on the attack, and the giant second row finished the move off from five metres out.

Hoppers continued their fast-paced open style of play despite trailing, and a lovely team move saw Spence run in a try from just beyond the halfway line on 51 minutes.

George Talbot exposed Preston’s lack of concentration in defence by taking a quick tap penalty with 15 minutes to go and diving over the whitewash to extend his side’s lead.

A penalty try two minutes from time gave Hoppers hope of snatching victory at the death, but they failed to muster an attack, and Tigers held on for the win.

Keay remained upbeat despite the result, he said: “I think there was some really good stuff today. I thought we looked like a team, and the lads who came in delivered.

“We stuck to it until the end. We played a much physically bigger side, as we seem to do most weeks.

“Disappointed to only take two (points) but pleasing equally because it was a really good team effort.”

Report by Ben Pitkeathly, picture by Mike Craig

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