PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 40 LIVERPOOL ST HELENS 24
Hoppers survived an early scare to beat a spirited Liverpool St Helens side and reach the final of The ‘John Burgess’ Lancashire Cup. Despite going 14 points down in the opening ten minutes Hoppers were able to wrestle control of the match and control the majority of the contest scoring six tries.
A side that was a mixture of youth and experience with a nice mixture of first and second team players throughout were given a real fright as the visitors grabbed to quick tries without really having much possession. Speedy winger Ian Stanley was able to intercept twice, the first with barely sixty seconds on the clock and the second after ten minutes just outside his own 22 to race away and score to give Liverpool St Helens a dream start.
Hoppers did not appear to be at the races with many handling mistakes and miss placed passes stopping the flow to their attack but once the errors were erased they rallied to secure the lead by the break and turn on the style in the second.
Will Keenan got Hoppers back into proceedings with a powerful run through the midfield to smash his way across the gain line and step the fullback to score before grabbing his second try five minutes before the break following sustained Hoppers pressure and a clever kick by Karl Fitzpatrick.
From the restart it was Fitzpatrick who gave Hoppers a real boost going into the break rounding off a superb try; the forwards made good yards with a driving maul before the ball was spun out wide and Fitzpatrick combined well with his centre partner Russell Flynn to score taking the sides into the break 19-14.
Liverpool St Helens would close the gap at the start of the second half with a Matty Cunliffe penalty but Fitzpatrick again turned provider with a fizzing pass to put Antony Elliott into space following a 5m scrum.
Fitzpatrick grabbed his second try to put the game safe after a great break by Josh Purnell was well supported by Keenan and a quick recycle and great hand from Flynn set up the playmaking centre.
The visitors gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Stuart Crampton capitalised on some poor defence and a dodgy bounce to ground the ball over the line but a misplaced pass minutes later allowed replacement Dan Fletcher to put Lewis Allen away and the young fly half showed great pace to sprint home from his own 22, Allan added the conversion as part of a classy kicking display recording 15 points.
Hoppers will face Sedgley Park in the final at Fylde’s Woodland’s Memorial Ground on Monday May 7th, kick off 3pm.
See below for a selection of Mike Craig’s excellent photos from the game.
For those viewing on a mobile device here is the link.