Hoppers came through a physical local derby against a tenacious Stockport side to claim a bonus point win and keep their play-off chances alive. In a feisty game that threatened to boil over on occasions Hoppers defence was superb and they scored five well worked tries to secure all five points.
Head Coach Dave Baldwin said; “I am pleased with the result and the work rate of the players from the first minute until the eightieth. We got through a lot of phases and were very comfortable with the ball and our defence was really good and didn’t really give them a sniff until a late interception try. We are still trying a bit to much to create things and need to keep the ball more but I feel we are just a touch away from ripping a team apart and scoring 50+”
Hoppers got off to a flyer with a Phil Baines try in the opening minutes, after a good break from Nathan Fowles and Dominic Moon took possession up to the 22 Hopper were able to get quick ball and the rugby league partnership of Sean Long and Karl Fitzpatrick cut through the defence before Fitzpatrick unselfishly set up Baines in the corner for the score.
The visitors replied straight back with two Josh Longmore penalties to take the lead with the second coming after one of the games major flash points as Long was shown a yellow card for reacting to some underhanded antics at the breakdown. It was in this period of the game when Hoppers were a man down that they showed their resilience and only allowed the visitors to score the initial penalty taking the score to 5-6.
Hoppers were able to regain the lead soon after Long’s return after a great turnover inside the 22, after an initial counter attack by Fitzpatrick and Matt Gargett a line break by second row Alex Austin turned into a superb solo try as he showed great pace to pull away from the defence and a nice step to round the full back and evade the covering winger, Fowles added the conversion.
Things got worse for the visitors when Steven Pearson was yellow carded for taking out a man without the ball when it looked like Baines was going to chip and collect for his second score, but Hoppers had to settle for a 12-6 lead at the break.
The second half, apart from a couple of set plays, was all Hoppers. Fitzpatrick was rewarded for a superb performance with a try just five minutes in after a great break by Sean Taylor and good hands across the backline with Hoppers having a huge man advantage against a scrambling defence.
Stockport did try to power their way back into the game with a number of set plays including a 5m line out which was well defended by Hoppers who not only repelled the forward drive, but lead by Fitzpatrick stopped the backs behind the line and turned the ball over.
The bonus point was wrapped up midway through the half with a try that started inside their own 22 with a scrum break from Moon and Gargett, before a Long cross kick to Baines put them deep in to the visitors half and against a stretched defence Long rounded off the move by picking a gap and powering his way through a tackler to the line.
Stockport did get a late try when Pearson intercepted on half way to sprint clear giving the visitors a chance of a bonus point but it quickly vanished as they couldn’t get their hands on the ball and Hoppers were to round the day off in style when a fantastic break by replacement Anthony Elliott put Jack Ward into the corner for a well deserved first try for the club.
Below is a slideshow of Mike Craig’s photos from the game. If you are viewing on a mobile device please click here to view the photos.