Hoppers recorded their third consecutive bonus point win to keep hope of a playoff stop alive with a 27-17 victory over Hull Ionians.
Head Coach Dave Baldwin said; “the first half was a bit scrappy and we kicked away too much possession and although we chased well our tackling wasn’t good. With the wind at our backs we would try to kick long for territory but in the second half against the wind we needed to be more direct, play at pace and run hard and that’s what we did and those 15 minutes at the start of the second half were some of the best rugby we have played since I have been here and no team in the league can match that.”
He added; “we came out in with plan in the second half to take their number 7 out of the game as he had been making things difficult for us and we did that really well. I am really pleased with the performance as it’s another five points away from home.”
Baldwin was full of praise for Sean Long who was again playing at fly half and was able to control the game well playing very flat to the gain line that caused Ionians problems throughout. It was Long’s link with Karl Fitzpatrick that Hoppers were able to build off and this allowed the forwards to get on the front foot and use their mobility against a big physical opposition pack.
The match started well for Hoppers as they scored a try in the opening minutes when Jack Ward powered his way over; a quick tap caught Ionians off guard and good hands allowed the big centre to crash over the line, Fowles converted but the rest of the half would belong to the hosts.
Ionians would come back into the game and dominate possession but they really should have made more of their opportunities. They did cross twice as Joe Sanders was one of a host of overlapping players following a turnover on half way and after Rich Morton was sin binned they utilised their very effective set piece to take a 10-7 lead when Stephen Johnson touched down following a driving maul.
Hoppers showed great spirit to stay in the contest as they had very little ball for the majority of the half, when they did a great flowing move nearly got them over the try line but the settled for a Fowles penalty to take the teams into the half level at 10-10.
The second half started just as the first as Ward crashed over in the opening minutes, this time following a free flowing move right from the kick off, Hoppers recycled the ball well and went through several phase to stretch the Ionians defence before an overlap appeared and allowed Ward to once again show his power and run through the last man.
Hoppers increased their lead straight away as a great Fitzpatrick break was carried in to the home 22 and could only be stopped illegally. Hoppers chose to kick for touch and they gave Ionians a taste of their own medicine with a well executed catch and drive from five metres out with Dominic Moon powering his way over from the base.
To compound the host misery they were reduced to 14 men when Will Nutbeen was sent to the sin bin and while the resulting kick to touch went dead Hoppers ran back the 22 drop out down the left wing with Fitzpatrick and Sean Taylor combining well to put Phil Baines into space; the winger still had work to do and showed strength to break a tackle and good speed to round off the score by the post and secure the bonus point.
Ionians were able to get a try from Gary Stephenson to give them some hope of a comeback when they finally created space from a long spell of possession inside the Hoppers 22 but they were unable to find any rhythm against a confident Hoppers side who were now making tackles well behind the gain line and imposing themselves on the game meaning they could see out the remainder of the game in relative comfort.
With three games to go there is still a chance of making the play off, Otley are the first to come to Hoppers after the Easter break before to crucial games against Huddersfield and table toppers Loughborough Students.
Here is the footage of Hoppers 4 tries.