Tynedale 38-43 Preston Grasshoppers
Preston Grasshoppers kicked off their National League 2 North campaign with a testing trip to Tynedale. The Lightfoot Green outfit had a very positive pre-season winning all their warm-up games, so hopes were high. The early exchanges went the way of Tynedale whose heavier pack dominated and delivered two tries in the first 15 minutes taking the score to 12-0. Hoppers didn’t help themselves with handling errors, imprecise lineout and high penalty count resulting in possession being coughed up too easily.
Hoppers got toehold in the game with a period of sustained pressure resulting in a penalty 10 meters from the Tynedale line. The visitors elected a scrum, quick ball and a deft offload from Jacob Browne sent Jake Maher in under the posts for a converted try, 12-7 Tynedale.
The next try went to Tynedale, whose tried and tested recipe of catch and drive from the lineout paid dividends, allowing their lively scrumhalf Douglas to dive over for a converted score on 24minutes. 19-7 Tynedale.
Hoppers continued to move the ball quickly and creatively, causing problems for the Tynedale defence. An ensuing penalty was punted into the corner with Hoppers winning clean ball 10 meters out. Jake Maher picked an incisive line off Will Hunt’s pass and glided under the posts for his second converted try. 19-14 Tyndale 28mins.
From the restart Hoppers retained possession and a probing kick into space from Will Hunt was gathered by the lively Tyler Spence who dotted down for try number three. Hunt nailed the touchline conversion. Hoppers lead 19-21, 30mins.
Hoppers were awarded a further penalty from the restart which Will Hunt duly converted. 19-24 Hoppers 32mins.
Following a period of sustained possession Tynedale won a penalty for a high tackle and kicked for the corner. A clean lineout win and driving maul set up a close-quarter converted try for the home hooker. 26-24 Tynedale at the break.
The first ten minutes of the second half saw an arm-wrestle in the middle third with errors and penalties from both sides resulting in possession changing hands. Hoppers rung the changes with Ally Murray joining the fray in the back-row.
Tyler Spence made good ground and punted the ball into space with Jacob Browne winning the race to touch down for a sensational try, the conversion hit the upright and stayed out. 26-29 Hoppers 51mins.
Hoppers maintained pressure from the restart winning a penalty 25m out. Preston kicked for the corner and won a scrappy lineout. The ball recycled quickly and an immaculate delayed pass from Will Hunt put Ed Keohane in for a try between the posts, converted by Will Hunt. 26-36 Hoppers 59mins.
A good spell for Tynedale resulted in a penalty 5m out from the Hoppers’ line. From the resulting scrum Tynedale picked and drove over for a converted try. 33-36 Hoppers 64mins.
Hoppers made changes at scrumhalf and wing, seeing Niall Povall and Ben Haigh respectively making their league debuts, joining another debutant, Jack Lightowler who started the game on the wing.
Haigh celebrated his debut with a try wide out following an excellent move by Hoppers involving dynamic forward play and quick movement of the ball, outpacing the home defence. Converted once again by Will Hunt from the touchline. 33-43 Hoppers 73mins.
Tynedale pressure late in the game saw them secure a final unconverted try on 79mins, taking the final score to 38-43 to Hoppers.
Whilst there is still plenty to do for Hoppers, especially in the tight, they showed great creativity, resilience and fitness to secure a rare away win against a determined and muscular Tynedale outfit.
The Hoppers faithful will be looking forward to next week’s home fixture against Fylde with great anticipation.