Hoppers overcame a stubborn Vale side whose dogged performance belied their lowly league position. Vale’s determination in addition to a soaking wet playing surface and a hefty wind hampered Hoppers free-flowing brand of rugby. However Mike Lough’s men stayed patient and eventually wore their opponents down.
Prop Mark Irving opened the scoring after five minutes as he burrowed over from the back of a ruck. Chris Todd added the extras. Vale used the wind to their advantage and their stand off put boot to ball at almost every opportunity. Hoppers remained resolute in defence but were penalised and Vale capitalised. Irving then bagged his second score and the seconds turned round 12-3 to the good.
Hoppers spent most of the second period camped in their opponents half and a strong surge by Will Keenan saw Mark Murray ghost under the posts. Skipper Cameron Berry quickly added another try following good work by the forwards.
Hoppers led 26-3 when Doug Grimes scored the try of the game. Hoppers turned the ball over on half-way and despite the conditions put the ball through the hands. Grimes finished from fully 40 metres out, evading two defenders in the process. Berry, who had now moved to the flank then completed the scoring with a fine try that demonstrated his footballing skills.
The league now splits into two conferences and Hoppers are joined by Sedgley Park, Stockport, Macclesfield, Chester, Caldy and neighbours Fylde. Hoppers finished the preliminary standings in second place. However they boasted the best offensive and defensive records of all the sides involved. Mike Lough’s side scored 623 points in their 13 matches and conceded a paltry 85. They remained unbeaten on their travels and but for their unfortunate reverse against Sedgley they would have topped the table. Next week Hoppers welcome Caldy to Lightfoot Green for the first of what will be 12 extremely tough fixtures. However they will approach the matches in fine form and good spirits. Those who watch the seconds regularly will be interested to see two cracking fixtures lined up for early January when they entertain Fylde and Sedgley on consecutive weekends.