Photo courtesy of Mike Craig
Preston Grasshoppers 21 – Sheffield Tigers 31
Hoppers fell to a spirited Sheffield Tigers side as they failed to capitalize on a decent amount of possession and territory. This was a sloppy performance in poor conditions that was compounded by the visitors clinical finishing with three of their five tries coming from turnovers. Hoppers were unable to deal with the break out speed of Jamie Broadley who looked dangerous every time he touched the ball scoring three tries.
Head Coach Dave Baldwin said; “We tried to throw the ball about too much instead of sticking to what we are good at, our defence was poor in the first half but it got better and we were able to get behind them and looked dangerous but we fell to pieces when we lost the ball. We started to play more direct in the second half and it worked for us and I really thought we would kick on and win the game, but turnovers cost us.”
Hoppers were always up against it after three tries in the first half hour gave Sheffield a 19-0 lead. After both sides had enjoyed some early possession it was the visitors who made it count after deciding to kick a penalty to touch. After the initial catch and drive was stopped Anthony Ross powered his way over for a deserved lead.
Although Hoppers were able to generate ball they were unable to get any points on the board and Sheffield capitalised on turnovers and were able to launch swift precise counter attacks with their speedy back line. Broadley got his first following a turnover in midfield and even though it looked like the move had been stopped by a terrific Nathan Fowles tackle the winger was on hand to touch down from close range. It was a similar pattern on the half hour mark as Sheffield snatched possession and quickly countered down the short side but this time great hands put Broadley in from distance and the flyer was able to coast in.
Hoppers certainly had their chances and could have got more out of the first half but for a couple of crucial knock on’s inside the 22, they did finally get on the board when Alan Holmes smashed his way over by the posts after Hoppers had turned down an easy three points. Holroyd converted with the final kick of the half to take the sides in 7-19.
It was the perfect start to the second half as Dominic Moon combined with replacement Chris Gale to power through the visiting defence. Moon collected a great offload at pace just inside the 22 and the covering defence had no answer to the number 8. This was to spark an impressive passage of play for Hoppers with Moon leading by example and Gale making an impact off the bench but they were unable to put any points on the board and with the clock winding down Sheffield were again able to take advantage of broken play. Had Hoppers scored again in this period to take the lead they would probably have gone on to win but the execution just wasn’t there.
Broadley would complete his hat trick rounding off another counter attack again with nice hands from the backs and his fellow wing Peter Swatkins touched down thanks to a determined run and some poor tackling to put the game beyond doubt.
Hoppers did have the last say as a great cross field kick from Holroyd to Sean Taylor set the full back off on a trademark mazy run and even though he was denied Hoppers recycled well with Gale touching down.
There were positives to take out of the game as the forwards lead by Moon, and a second half cameo from Gale, worked tirelessly and made solid yards in difficult conditions and the backs showed glimpses of the early season form which had delighted the fans but they lacked the clinical finishing of the visitors, couple that with some sloppy play and a fair amount of dubious decisions at the break down and this is a performance Hoppers will need to improve on for the remainder of the season.