WESTOE 37 PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 6
By Ken Moore
Hoppers’ hopes of a fifth successive away win were dashed at Wood Terrace by half time as, playing up the slope and into the teeth of a gale, they trailed by 27 points.
Disappointed coach Dave Baldwin commented: “Westoe played the conditions well and our defence was found wanting in the first half. If we could have restricted the lead to 15 points, we would have been in with a chance but we left ourselves with too much to do. There was plenty of endeavor in the second period but we lacked penetration and coughed up possession at crucial times.”
Westoe’s kick off went out on the full but there was a hint of what was to came as Hoppers’ pack was pushed off their own ball. After some promising drives from Chris Gale and Rich Morton, Westoe used the kick to establish an attacking platform and a miss move in the centre brought a well crafted try and conversion for Mark Bedworth on 9 minutes.
Hoppers’ pack continued to be out muscled in the tight and lineout and, after a period of pressure, home hooker Thirkell burrowed over and Bedworth added the extras.
Hoppers then stemmed the surge with Jack Ward, Connor Murphy and Dominic Moon all making strong runs out of defence and it was left to Bedworth to increase the lead with a penalty after 28 minutes.
Just as it seemed that the lead was going to be contained to reasonable proportions, stand off Charlie Raynor stepped his way through a static defence to score at the posts and the kick was good. Worse was to follow as the home pack again turned the screw and Thirkell crashed over for his second touchdown with the last play of the half.
With a mountain to climb, Hoppers had a glimmer of hope as Graham Holroyd kicked two early penalties to get his side on the board but, despite having more than their fair share of possession and territory, the backs could not break down the home side’s rush defence. It was left to Moon, comfortably Hoppers’ best player, to make an impact with two scything breaks but it summed up their day as, first the final pass did not go to hand and then the ball was turned over in the tackle inches from the line.
In an attempt to get that elusive score, Hoppers threw caution to the wind and some poor defence and an interception brought tries for replacement Adair and Raynor in the last two minutes to give the hosts a somewhat flattering winning margin.
Next Saturday, Hoppers will hope to get back to winning ways as they attempt to pull off the double at home to Sheffield Tigers.