NUNEATON 20 PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 20
Hoppers seemed to be facing defeat in a game that they had opportunities to win when, deep into injury time, prop Chris Gale forced his way over to claim a draw.
Rueful coach Dave Baldwin said: “This was a frustrating performance after the win against Luctonians which we should have built on. Scoring opportunities missed in the first half came back to haunt us and, despite being in control for most of the second period, silly mistakes and unnecessary penalties cost us dear and, in the end, we were lucky to come away with a draw.”
Hoppers kicked off with a stiff breeze at their backs and quickly set up an attacking lineout from which Rich Morton was driven over in the 6th minute and Graham Holroyd converted.
Despite an injury to lock Ally Murray, replaced by Connor Murphy, Hoppers kept the pressure on but were denied a try from a clear overlap when the final pass was forward. Another chance was squandered when Sean Taylor scythed through centre field but a wrong option caused the move to break down.
Nuneaton at last mounted an attack and some desperate defence saw Taylor yellow carded for killing the ball after 24 minutes and, from the resulting penalty lineout, hooker Smith drove over in the corner. The kick failed but the home side used the man advantage well, spreading the ball wide and some indifferent tackling let in winger Cooksammy. Again the kick failed and, although Holroyd replied with a penalty on the stroke of half time, the Nuns were well placed at the break with the scores tied and wind advantage to follow.
Hoppers were back on the attack at the restart, and, after an uncharacteristic penalty miss by Holroyd, the back row combined well and Will Keenan put Murphy in at the corner to put his side 15-10 ahead. A poor reception of the kick off then created unnecessary pressure and Thomas’s penalty reduced the deficit to two points.
An unsavoury off-the-ball incident led to the injured Nathan Fowles being replaced by Josh Purnell and this seemed to spur Hoppers on as they mounted a period of sustained pressure. Unfortunately it brought no points and, after both kickers had failed with relatively easy penalty attempts, the home side seemed to have secured victory when Thomas’s pin-point cross-kick was gathered by full back Brown who crossed at the posts. But Nuneaton’s hopes of a first win for 5 games were dashed by Gale’s last play touchdown and Holroyd’s difficult touchline kick into the wind could have snatched a last-ditch win.