Preston Grasshoppers 34 – 0 Darlington Mowden Park
Preston Grasshoppers got the new season off to a flying start to record a bonus point victory over a hard working Darlington Mowden Park side.
Built around a solid defence, a strong set piece and an ability to move the ball quickly especially in broken play, Hoppers were able to use their superior fitness and flair to contain the visitors and pull away with some impressive tries.
Head Coach Michael Lough speaking after his first game in charge said; “Even though there were a lot of mistakes early on our defence was very strong and we are happy with the performance. We were always going to come good as we had the edge, we wanted to pick up from where we left off last season with the Lancashire Cup victory and we produced a good display and our fitness came through towards the end. However, the thing I am most pleased about is not conceding any points.”
From start to finish this was a high tempo performance from both teams as they both looked to spread the ball wide at every opportunity and run from deep whenever possible. Hoppers were able to dominate both territory and possession for the majority off the game, but the visitors did well to keep them from scoring any points in the opening half hour. There were signs of where Hoppers would have the most joy as Sean Taylor and Phil Baines combined well down the left but the winger was just bundled into touch short of the line.
That combination would provide Hoppers with points as the pair returned a poor clearing kick deep into the 22 and found Karl Fitzpatrick in support to score in the corner. It looked like DMP may get on the score board just before the half as they had a sustained period of pressure deep in Hoppers territory but the knocked on and Taylor launched a superb counter supported well by Gareth Gore and Baines before the full back was put away to score and take the sides in 10-0 at the break.
Hoppers upped the pace in the second half and a quick tap penalty by Josh Purnell helped them to a 5m line out and while the visitors stopped the forward drive the ball was moved quick to the backs and Sean Long’s cut out pass put Taylor in space for his second, all though the full back still had two men to beat to cross the line.
DMP battled valiantly throughout but struggled to break through Hoppers excellent defence and in the final quarter of an hour Hoppers turned on the style to record the bonus point and put the game beyond doubt.
First a deft offload from Kilian Wallace allowed Captain Dominic Moon to power his way through the defence in his typical rampaging style before a simple pass to Long put the fly half into acres of space and he showed good pace to round the full back and score.
Then a sensational break from replacement Matt Hughes who jinked his way through the would be tacklers inside his own 22 before releasing the combination of Taylor and Baines down the left for the winger to score a well-deserved try.
The forwards tried to get in on the act, to round off a powerful display and nearly got across the whitewash with a couple of set pieces close to the line but it was left to scrum half Purnell who showed a real poachers instinct to cross from close range.
Hoppers travel to Sheffield Tigers next week before welcoming Hull Ionians and Hull in back to back home games on the 15th and 22nd of September
Here are some excellent shots taken by Mike Craig, thank Mike.
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