Preston Grasshoppers 27-26 Sheffield Tigers
Hoppers recorded back to back home wins as they held off a strong second half comeback by a Sheffield Tigers side that left Lightfoot Green with two bonus points.
Hoppers took the lead and built up an early 17 point lead which they never relinquished although they were pushed all the way and had to defend valiantly in the final minutes to secure the win
Head Coach Michael Lough said; “it’s definitely good to get the win and while we may have let them back into the game it’s all credit to Sheffield for the way they play. We probably let them score two tries too many but they are a very dangerous side.”
“I was extremely impressed with our pack and the way they competed, we were again strong at the breakdown and that’s all down to the fitness of the lads, which we work on a lot and is something you need to have to compete at this level.”
“I thought our lineout was excellent and Phil Mills was the standout player, not only did he hit all his throws but his kick chasing and work at the breakdown was excellent. Andy Napier was really good after impressing in the seconds and Will Keenan tackled hard all game as always”
Hoppers built up an early 17 point lead with a tries from Andy Irving and Adam Birchall either side of a Sean Taylor penalty. Irving powered over after a catch and drive when Hoppers kicked a penalty to touch and Birchall made a great interception inside his own half to sprint away and score, Birchall anticipated the pass perfectly as the Tigers looked to have an overlap on the outside.
Two Peter Swatkins tries brought the visitors right back into it as the full back showed his pace to leave Hoppers defence wanting, the full back took his chances well but the tackling was poor. Taylor had added another penalty after the first try which meant the sides went in 20-12 at the break.
The second half would be a tense affair although Hoppers looked to have sealed it when Matt Hughes’ brilliant line fed Taylor for a converted try, Hughes took a sublime inside ball from Karl Fitzpatrick to cut a great angle through the visitors defence, he offloaded well to Taylor who still had work to do but a brilliant step left the Sheffield winger on his heels and the full back raced in for the try.
Sheffield would score two quick tries to set up a frantic finish as Tom Outram found a huge gap by the posts and Broadley exploited a similar space minutes later. Sheffield’s forwards sucked in the Hoppers defence with excellent driving line outs as Hoppers started to concede a few penalties late in the game.
However, in the final moments Hoppers defence held strong thanks to a couple of key turnovers, in particular by Chris Gale to secure the win.
Thanks to Mike Craig for allowing us to use his photos once again.
Below are the highlights from teh game plus an interview with forwards coach Alan Holmes.