Preston Grasshoppers 27-28 Sale FC
Hoppers final pre-season game ended with a disappointing defeat to a spirited Sale FC who put in an impressive second half performance to leave Lightfoot Green with an unlikely but deserved win.
It all looked to be going well for Hoppers as three tries in the first half saw them out to a 15 point lead as they dominated possession and territory.
However, it was all change in the second period as the visitors rattled off four converted tries to give Hoppers plenty to think about going into their opening National Two North fixture at Sheffield Tigers next week.
On a blustery but good day for rugby Hoppers were happy to keep the ball in hand and chose to kick to the corners and take scrums instead of kicking for goal in the spirit off the game, but this was a physical test with the visitors certainly proving their worth.
All of the opening tries came from set pieces Hoppers working a scrum inside the 22 well with Chris Gale and Alan Holmes both crashing over, before a line-out allowed Craig Aikman to sneak his way over for a third Hoppers try of the first half.
The second half saw Sale use the same tactic as John O’Donnell, Jonathon Keep, Percy Alexander and Liam McGovern all crossing off the back of scrum moves and some pretty lacklustre defence. McGovern converted all four to take Sale out to a 28-15 lead.
Hoppers finally got into some rhythm in the final ten minutes of the game as Jack Walker was on hand to capitalise on a Phil Baines break and did well to hold off the covering defence and score by the posts, which Sean Taylor duly converted.
It looked like the hosts were going snatch the win as the full time whistle approached as a catch and drive ended with Andy Irving touching down, Taylor missed a difficult conversion and while Hoppers were able to take the restart and keep the ball alive a knock-on on half way ended the match at 28-27 to Sale.
The photos below are provided courtesy of Mike Craig.