Hoppers lost out in a thrilling contest that had ten tries and two yellow cards to a heavyweight Hull side that now leap frog them in National League 2 (North).
After conceding 19 unanswered points in the opening quarter of the game Hoppers put in a spirited comeback and could have snatched all five points but they made too many mistakes Hull made them pay by converting nearly all their try scoring opportunities.
Head Coach Dave Baldwin said; “We started well and looked comfortable but we kept giving the ball away after the first phase and gifted them soft tries. We always looked like leaking points as at times we were not switched on. We made a lot of mistakes and didn’t do what we talked about pre game which was multi phase rugby as we didn’t keep the ball long enough.” However it wasn’t all negative from Baldwin: “Attitude wise we were fantastic, I was pleased with the work ethic of the guys which I thought was very good.”
Hoppers were always going to be up against a strong and determined pack but Hull also had a few flyers in their ranks including full back James Wigglesworth who opened the scoring with a fabulous solo try after Hoppers had kicked away possession straight to him, James Cameron added the conversion and the visitors had an early 7-0 lead. The Hull pack began to dominate at the set piece and Hoppers were reduced to 14 men after Dominic Moon, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity, was yellow carded for killing a maul. Hoppers had definitely offended a few times and the card was just but maybe not for Moon.
It looked like Hoppers had survived the forward pressure but when the clearing kick didn’t find touch Wigglesworth showed his speed again to set up winger Joe Donkin for a score, Hoppers will be disappointed at the tackling that lead to the try but even more so when just minutes later Josh Purnell’s pass was intercepted by his opposite number Cameron who strolled in for another seven points to give Hull a 19 point lead.
Hoppers though were resilient and ended the half strongly, first Nathan Fowles took responsibility off the kicking tee to add the first points and just before the break Anthony Elliott scored following a good catch and drive and some nice hands in the midfield put the winger, who had made the extra man, in to space.
The second half started perfectly for Hoppers as a marauding run from Chris Gale released Matt Hughes, who returned to the first XV at the half following an injury, and while he was stopped just short of the line a bit of quick thinking allowed Rich Morton to sneak over from the resulting ruck, Fowles added the extras and Hoppers were just two points adrift.
However that was as close as they got as Hull turned the game with two quick scores thanks to their formidable catch and drive. First Rob Devonshire powered over as the initial drive was stopped just short and then Donkin joined the maul to touch down just five minutes later and stretch the lead to two scores.
Hoppers gave themselves a slim chance when the referee awarded them a penalty try as they gave the visitors some of their own medicine with a well worked catch and drive, and things looked to be going the home sides way when Devonshire was sin binned, but Hoppers couldn’t ad any points in his absence and when they lost the ball in midfield it was kicked through for the flyer Wigglesworth to wrap things up for Hull.
Hoppers did salvage two bonus points with the final play of the game as Matt Charters burst from the back of a scrum to set up Fowles for a well deserved try for the young scrum half but this was a game of missed opportunities.
Hoppers will look to get back to winning ways next weekend when they travel to a struggling Harrogate.
Below are a selection of Mick Craig’s excellent pictures.