Hoppers lose out to Hull Ionians

Date: 20 November 2011

Photo courtesy of Mike Craig

Preston Grasshoppers 18 – 29 Hull Ionians

Head Coach Dave Baldwin was obviously disappointed as Hoppers failed to capitalise on the home debut of Sean Long and lost their unbeaten home record.

Baldwin said; “we froze on the occasion and that performance was nowhere near our capacity. The backs had no ball and we struggled at the breakdown.”

He was also complimentary of a vastly improved Hull Ionians team who were able to bring several new faces in to the team since recent investment has been made and they started five new players, all who started the season playing for teams in higher divisions, who all played a huge role in the win. Baldwin added; “Hull have recruited well and play a simple game plan that work very well for them.”

Hoppers started the brighter of the teams and took the lead in the opening minutes, capitalising on a poor scrum Hoppers were able to create some pressure inside the visiting 22 and after sucking in the defence Long and Sean Taylor set up Matt Hughes in the right corner and the winger was able to touch down for what seemed like a promising start.

It was the only real attacking threat that Hoppers could muster in the half, although Phil Baines was able to force a 5m scrum after a good break which came to nothing, but the hosts spent the majority of the half on the back foot as Ionians grew stronger as the half progressed.

The visitors got on to the score sheet with two near identical tries as set pieces in the Hoppers 22 allowed them to execute well designed backs moves and put Michael Bateman, one of the new additions, in to some huge holes in midfield as the full back scored twice on his debut. These tries showed the additions that Ionians have made have been smart ones as their two new props provided a solid platform at the scrum while their new fly half and full back combined well in the backs. David Marshall, the new fly half, added the extras and while Graham Holroyd added two penalties to cut into the lead Ionians enjoyed a 14-11 lead as the half approached.

That lead would stretch as time expired as a defensive mix up under a high ball allowed another new recruit William Du Randt to coast in from 30m out to give the visitors a real boost. And Du Randt that gave them a similar boost just minutes in to the second half as the visiting pack made a mess of a Hoppers set piece pushing the pack clean off the ball before Ross Noonan, yes another new recruit, made a simple break before putting Du Randt in to space for the bonus point.

Hoppers struggled to get themselves back in to the game but there were a few glimpses of the kind of rugby home fans can expect. Alex Austin made a break up the middle before releasing Long who was just bundled into touch before the try line and Baines was working tirelessly on the wing but the killer instinct just wasn’t there from the home side.

Marshall extended the Ionians lead midway through the half with a penalty to push the lead out to 18 points and although Hoppers pack started to make some headway, especially at scrum time, it was always going to be enough of a lead.

Austin did manage to grab a consolatory try with ten minutes to go to give the fans something to cheer about and the visitors something to think about. After conceding one of many penalties, this time from being in front of the kicker, Ionians were not alert to the quick tap from Baines giving Hoppers some momentum and Austin burst from the base of a ruck showing real pace to cross from near half way but it was too little too late as the visitors were able to run out the clock.

The result will hurt Hoppers, not only have they lost their 100% home record but the momentum of last week’s hard fought victory will need to be found  if they have serious ambitions to challenge at the top of the league. Ionians were a much better team than their league position suggested; with new additions in key positions it won’t be long before they start climbing the table.

Next week Hoppers take the trip across the border to face Otley.

Mike Craig’s brilliant photographs from the game can be found here.

Taken from www.rugbyroundup.com

Taken from www.rugbyrounup.com

Mascots from U7's and U8's

Ball Boys from the U11's

Mascots with Sean Long


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