Hull Ionians 33-20 Preston Grasshoppers
Hoppers fell to their fourth consecutive defeat as they were beaten by a physical and well organised Hull Ionians team who are looking like a strong contender for the playoffs.
After going in at the break with a seven point lead Hoppers were unable to generate the same kind of quality quick ball in the second half, as the home pack put in a dominating display and their half backs intelligently playing a territorial game that pinned Hoppers back deep in their own half.
Head Coach Michael Lough was frustrated with the result but looked to positives from the game; “physically we are not as big as they are up front and we started to wear down, we looked dangerous in possession but unfortunately didn’t finish off all our chances and their weight of possession in the second half was key.”
“We started well and our defence was exceptional, which we stuck at throughout and were always involved in the game. They were the better team on the day and we lost but I am not unhappy with the performance or the commitment of the lads as we stopped their big ball carriers and worked tirelessly.”
While all players had good individual moments Lough singled out Chris Gale, Will Keenan and Adam Birchall for their performances. Gale carried well throughout and made lots of hard yards, Keenan was strong in defence with impressive line speed and Birchall was eager to come off his wing and look for work in attack.
The opening quarter of the game was a tight affair with Ionians Chris Reakes twice putting the hosts ahead with the boot only for Sean Taylor to level the scores. Hoppers were reduced to 14 men when Dominic Moon saw yellow but didn’t concede a point in his absence which was a testament to their commitment and work ethic.
However, Ionians got the opening try on the half hour mark when Danny Hague touched down from the base of a 5m scrum as Hoppers were pushed back over the line with a simple score for the number 8. The set piece would be where the game was won and lost as Ionians power was too much for a smaller Hoppers unit.
If the hosts had the advantage in the tight, Hoppers certainly had it in open play and put together two nice moves to grab the lead. After kicking a penalty to the corner and a solid forward carry Karl Fitzpatrick pulled the strings behind the pack finding plenty of willing runners with Birchall cutting a great line off his wing to score.
The two were at the centre of Hoppers second try as again Fitzpatrick was the creator, his subtle kick through found the flying winger who put in a nice move but was tackled just short of the line before Jack Ward smashed his way over for the try. Ionians Mark Wigham received a yellow card in the aftermath of the try leaving the hosts to play the opening ten minutes of the second half a man short.
The second half unfortunately was all Ionians, their pack grew into the game and Reakes was able to play a territorial kicking game that pinned Hoppers back deep in their own territory. What little ball Hoppers generated came to nothing and they rarely made inroads into the Ionians half.
Sam Wilson finished well after a long series of possession with their impressive flanker Kerry Wood heavily involved and the territorial dominance paid off with two catch and drive tries with Wood scoring both to secure the bonus point. Reakes also slotted his third penalty after Fitzpatrick was shown a seemingly harsh yellow card, for a high tackle, leaving Hoppers chasing the game without their playmaker.
The photos below are embedded from Hull Ionians Flickr photostream.
If you are viewing on a mobile device that doesn’t support flash please click here.