Sheffield vs PGRFC

Date: 01 October 2022

Sheffield 38-17 Preston Grasshoppers

Hoppers made the trip to Sheffield to face a side that, like themselves, had been newly promoted to National League 2 at the end of last season and, boosted by their five-point win over Huddersfield last week, they looked to build on that confident performance.

The President’s party was enhanced by the presence of one Oga Mabaya, recovering from his shoulder injury. Ever the joker, on boarding the team coach and being asked what he was doing there, he informed the assembled company that he was, ‘starting his campaign for President and that there’s going to be changes when I get in!’

The weather was again kind to the players with a welcome warming sun, a very good pitch and just enough of a breeze to either hinder or help the kickers.

Sheffield made a fast start from the kick off, pressing the Hoppers’ 22 with powerful attacks which kept the visitors penned inside their own half for much of the first quarter of the match. A long clearance kick finally took them into their hosts’ 22 where some quick handling from a line-out had Full Back Kevin Brown gliding through the defence to score by the posts making the conversion by Ben Pearson a simple task. 0 – 7.

That lead was quickly reduced by a Sheffield penalty but the home side were then reduced to fourteen when their number 8, Burrows, was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Hoppers looked to make good the advantage with soaring kick, chase and tackle from Jacob Browne but in the ensuing attack it was their turn to be shown yellow and, adding to his tally, Sam Gale went to the sin bin.

Sheffield then capitalized on their numbers advantage and immediately moved up the field where their prop, Whitney, somewhat surprised at finding himself unmarked in a space of his own, collected the ball out on the wing and cruised round the defence to score next to the posts. The conversion from Fisher was good and the teams went to the break with the score at 10 – 7 which reflected what had been a fairly equal contest.

Sheffield had a big, strong pack which also possessed a good turn of speed and they had been able to rapidly turn defence into attack and pressure the Hoppers’ 22 and beyond. The Preston defence was, as usual, the keystone to keeping these attacks in check but the ease with which the Sheffield players were able to break through tackles was a concern. The visitors had struggled to gain, and then keep possession of the ball, something that the travelling supporters had seen all too often in the past and it was this that was to have a telling effect on the final outcome which made the second half a different story to the first.

From the kick off the home side pressed into the Preston Red Zone to cross the whitewash, only for the try to be dismissed for crossing in the final move. But the attacks kept coming and after just ten minutes they had added another seven points. 17 – 7.

Undaunted, Hoppers went again and gained a piece of good fortune when an attempted clearing kick by Sheffield, deep in their own half, was sliced and only found touch just outside their 5m line.
Hoppers lost their line-out but their hosts knocked-on giving them a scrum just eight metres from goal. With their forwards driving well, they pressed on to the line where Ben Dorrington, this week playing at 7, shot out of the pack to score their second try making the tally 17 – 14 and keeping Hoppers well in touch.

However, this was quickly countered by a third score by Sheffield which, although the referee had decided the ball had been held up, was then awarded when his assistant confirmed that the try had been completed. 24 – 14.

Despite another three points from a penalty, Hoppers could not add to their tally and Sheffield then dominated the final quarter of the match with two further converted tries. Indeed, the final score could have been significantly more as they home side had two more tries disallowed but the win was sealed at 38 – 17.

Assistant Coach Dan Orwin was pleased by the effort of his team:
‘I’m really happy with the first half performance, they put us under quite a lot of pressure but defensively, we were sharp and well-connected and the line speed was good. On sixty minutes we were still in touch with just three points between us but we need to look at our game management. They had some very big lads in their forwards and trying to throw line-outs lover them lost us the ball several times. We need to be a bit more ‘game-smart’ which is the difference when you step up to this level. The small errors accumulate and we made too many in the last twenty which hurt us and we couldn’t close the game out.

The team, whilst disappointed by today’s result, are still confident in their ability to compete in this league and will work on these things as we go forward.’

We have a week off now before taking on Sheffield’s neighbours, the Tigers, at home. On our pitch, and without the Dore More hurricanes to contend with, the lads could gain some more points in their quest to move up the table, where, as a result of Blaydon’s loss to Fylde today, they remain eleventh.

In this league these are hard games for us at the start of the campaign and strong support for the team is a great boost at every match so let’s get a good crowd down to the club and cheer them on.

Report by John Le Page, pictures by Darren George
Sheffield 38 Preston Grasshoppers 17 01/10/2022

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