Photo courtesy of Mike Craig
Preston Grasshoppers 32 Bromsgrove 19
Hoppers claimed a bonus point win over a spirited Bromsgrove side who caused a lot of problems but were undone by some superb tries and a powerful second half performance by the hosts.
Hoppers Head Coach Dave Baldwin said; “we are pleased to get the win and five points against a decent team that are playing well. We changed some patterns at the half as we gave too much ball away in the first half and it worked well for us.”
“We wanted to play with more momentum as we were playing too lateral and we did much better in the second half but give credit to Bromsgrove who did a good job of slowing us down. We have had to do a lot of defending in our own 22 but the guys are really putting in the effort.”
Hoppers got off to a good start with fly half Graham Holroyd putting in a couple of searching tactical kicks before putting Hoppers into the lead with a penalty it and the lead was extended a couple of minutes later with a try from Conor Murphy.
Dominic Moon, who lead from the front all day in another superb performance, stole the ball in a tackle on half way and after an amazing scything run from Sean Taylor was stopped just short of the line Murphy was in support to touch down for a 10-0 lead.
This epitomized the performance as the defence was superb throughout and forced a number of turnovers with pressure and commitment and the backs looked dangerous with ball in hand.
The try seemed to knock some life into Bromsgrove who dominated the rest of the half and if not for some excellent Hoppers defence they could have added more than an Aaron Higgins try; the scrum half, who was a threat all day, sprinted from the back off a ruck and showed good pace to score. It was Holroyd who, against the run of play, had the final say of the half to put Hoppers out to a 13-7 lead at the break with his second penalty.
Hoppers had to absorb more pressure at the start of the second half but always looked the more dangerous with ball in hand and extended the lead 15 minutes into the half. A solid scrum on the 22 set a great platform and Holroyd’s bullet pass put Taylor in to space and the full back wasn’t to be denied this time as he cut a great line before showing good strength to ground the ball.
Hoppers stretched the lead even further with Murphy’s second try, again the ball was stolen, this time by Mark Edwards from a sloppy Bromsgrove scrum, to set up a great counter attack and it was Matt Gargett who stepped his man before providing the final pass for the supporting Murphy.
The visitors gave themselves a sniff of a chance when Drew Harper grounded from a catch and drive. But a moment of madness or frustration from Nigel Burrows stopped any momentum the visitors had, and he was sin binned for needlessly charging in to Sean Long after a clearing kick.
This allowed Hoppers pack to take charge from the resulting line out and Rich Morton powered over from close range to secure the try bonus.
Bromsgrove did get a late consolation as Higgins dove over the ruck to cap an impressive personal performance but this was Hoppers day and they fully deserved the win thanks to a great team display.
The front row had complete dominance at the scrum and the back row were sensational with Moon and Murphy having a major impact on the game. Edwards again performed admirably in an unfamiliar role and combined well with Holroyd to put the backs in to position to cause any side problems and the introduction of Sean Long at half time added a calming influence over the team.
The win puts Hoppers fifth in the table and sets up an intriguing trip north next week to Westoe; “It will be a challenge to go away to a top side but we will be looking to take the spoils” Baldwin said as Hoppers will be looking for their second double over a title contending club.
The photos below are provided courtesy of Mike Craig.
Here are some more photographs, this time taken by Steve Beattie.