Tynedale 34 – 5 Preston Grasshoppers
In miserable weather with rain sweeping across the Northumbrian pitch, Hoppers played out a fairly miserable match on nearly all levels.
Coach Paul Arnold summed up the afternoon in his post-match interview,
‘We were well beaten all over the park. Our set piece was appalling, and our game management was just not good enough. The injury to Alex obviously interrupted the game but they used the time much better than we did. We were only 3 – 0 down before that happened. They wanted the win more than we did and the penalty count against us throughout the rest of the match coupled with some shocking handling gave it to them’
The match started well enough with Hoppers kicking deep to their hosts’ 22 and both sides testing each other out for the first ten minutes in a fairly evenly matched competition. It looked like the Hoppers’ forwards were starting to get the upper hand as they had several attacks with the ball in hand and managed to keep the play in their hosts’ half. Then Tynedale were awarded a penalty and moved up the field to the Hoppers’ 10m line.
Play continued around the half way line until Hoppers had a scrum on their own 10m line. The packs set to but to the delight of the home crowd and the surprise of the travelling supporters, Tynedale drove the usually solid Preston forwards and gained a penalty.
The kick was taken from twenty-five metres out in front of the posts by fly half Rodgers to score the first points of the game after just thirteen minutes.
Shortly after that Hoppers centre Alex Hurst failed to get up from a tackle on his own 10m line. He was lying face down and did not appear to be moving. Play was stopped to allow the medics to see to him but it quickly became apparent that things looked serious and an appeal was made to the crowd for a trained first aider or doctor. Both were identified and quickly moved down to the pitch. The teams then left the field and it was a full twenty minutes before he was able to be moved.
He was finally stretchered off to hospital to a very sporting round of applause from all round the pitch and shortly after the match he was reported to have recovered without serious injury.
The game then resumed but Hoppers just did not seem to be in it. Tynedale had regrouped during the break and had returned to the field better prepared for the rest of the encounter. They proceeded to mount a series of attacks which, although they were repeatedly repelled by their visitors, managed to get them to the Hoppers’ 10m line and a scrum.
In what seemed to be the inevitable outcome of scrums in this match, Tynedale were awarded a penalty, Rodgers stepped up again and the score moved on to 6 – 0.
Hoppers then had to defend wave after wave of attacks and nothing went in their favour. Their lineout, so much a strength in the previous games this season, did not get them anything and a yellow card shown to James Fitzpatrick on thirty-four minutes did nothing to help the cause. Handling errors with the slippery ball, knocks-on and a penalty count longer than the team lists in the programme saw them facing a 20 – 0 score at half time as their hosts ran in two converted tries.
With no floodlights around the pitch and the risk of poor light conditions causing the match to be abandoned, the break was shortened and the teams remained on the pitch for only a few minutes before resuming play. The half had been something of a nightmare for Hoppers with Tynedale having the majority of possession and their own poor handling of the ball added to a mounting penalty count had made it impossible for them to gain any progress.
Things did begin to look better as the second session started. In one of the team’s few really penetrating breaks into the Tynedale red zone, Jordan Dorrington scored wide of the uprights but then Nick Gregson’s conversion attempt dropped woefully short and the meagre five points proved to be all the visitors could take from the game.
Play then resumed its predictable course with the teams battling for territory but being halted by a penalty or a scrum from a knock-on.
Entertaining it was not and comments were to be heard in the stand that failing light due to the injury delay couldn’t come soon enough to put an end to the dismal spectacle. These, it turned out, were a little premature when, with a quarter of the match to go, Tynedale broke through to score their third try and again Rodgers stroked the ball between the uprights.
Whilst they never gave up, Hoppers were really never in contention and despite one or two good handling moves on their part, their hosts mounted phase after phase along their visitors’ 5m line resulting in their fourth try in the eightieth minute, which sealed the Bonus Point win for them with not even a crumb for Hoppers to bring away.
We now look towards next week and a home fixture against Stourbridge who presently sit eight places above us in the table. With a large number of the first team squad still injured the intensity of the matches does not look like relenting. The team really appreciates the great support from the home following so let’s try and get a good crowd down to the club next Saturday. Kick-off is at 2.30pm.
Report by John Le Page, pictures by John and Barbara Austin