Preston Grasshoppers 57 Luctonians 21
Preston Grasshoppers finished off their season in style, with a convincing win over Luctonians at Lightfoot Green.
The Whites needed 45 points to ensure that they would top the 1000-point mark for the first time in their history, and a try from Chris Gale in the 76th minute ensured the landmark was reached.
The first try of the afternoon was scored by Adam Birchall, who continued his good run of form, crossing over after a good spell of early pressure from the home side. Ollie Farley made the conversion to put Hoppers 7-0 ahead within 5 minutes.
There were some notable absentees from the home side’s line-up, with seven players called up to play for Lancashire, so it would have been understandable if the fluency of the rugby was affected somewhat. This was hardly the case though, with some impressive handling and continuity of the off-loading game the Grasshoppers have been so keen to implement over the past season.
Further first half tries from Lewis Allen and Killian Wallace , both converted by Farley, made the score 21-0 to Hoppers within the first 20 minutes. Luctonians, however, upped the tempo and hit back with two tries through Roy-Smith and Hulland to keep them close to the home team at the break.
After the interval, however, the Grasshoppers turned up the heat. Birchall completed his hat trick with two tries: the first following marvellous interplay with Farley, who also converted, and the second an individual effort from close range to make the score 33-14.
Ben James added a third try for the visitors after strong running from Morris, but their indiscipline cost them after first Langdon then replacement Pinches were sin-binned following multiple warnings about slow ball and offside at the breakdown.
Hoppers made them pay for their indiscretions, with tries from Birchall, Farley, Gale, who had an impressive game with ball in hand, and Fitzpatrick to cap off a fine season for the Grasshoppers. They will surely have promotion in their sights for next season, but Coach Michael Lough is warning against complacency.
“It’s going to be a tough league next season, but we now have this steeliness running through our team, with a commitment to improve and perform week in, week out. We know there is room for improvement, but our work ethic and our attitude is as good as I have known,” he said.
“I was really pleased with the new lads who made their league debuts today (Luke Procter and Harry Reddick): the youngsters have really impressed me this year,” he added.
It seems that the future is bright for Preston Grasshoppers.
Star Man – Adam Birchall
Attendance – 233
Half time: 21-14
Referee: Andrew Rawson
Hoppers: 15. Allen, 14. Horsfall, 13. Birchall, 12: Farley, 11. Elliott, 10. Fitzpatrick, 9. Kindred: 1. Gale, 2. Tuff, 3. Madden, 4. Procter, 5. Austin, 6. Napier, 7. Wallace, 8. Keenan (c).
17. Holmes, 18. Reddick, 19. Murray, 20. Aikman, 21. Morton
Tries: Birchall (4, 49, 56, 64), Allen (15), Wallace (19), Farley (69), Gale (76), Fitzpatrick (79).
Conversions: Farley (5, 16, 20, 50, 70, 77).
Luctonians: 15. Newman, 14. Morris, 13. Langdon, 12. Crowley, 11. Rumsey, 10. Prior, 9. Roy-Smith: 1. Watkins, 2. Thomas, 3. Yeomans, 4. Jaques, 5. Davidson (c), 6. Cheasley, 7. James, 8. Hulland.
16. Marfell, 17. Condliffe, 18. Jones. 19. Pinches.
Tries: Roy-Smith (28), Hulland (39), James (61).
Conversions: Morris (29, 40, 62)
Yellow Cards: Langdon (58), Pinches (76).
Report By Josh de Kooker
Please follow the following link to see Mike Craig’s great photos of the action.