Preston Grasshoppers 49-5 Luctonians
Hoppers put in a scintillating performance to score eight tries and dominate a high flying Luctonians side that struggled to get a foot in the game. With a combination of powerful and determined forwards and a backline that looked as sharp and precise as they have all season Hoppers took the initiative and really showed the kind of attacking rugby that they have been threatening to do all season.
Head Coach Dave Baldwin was delighted with the win saying; ‘the forced break meant we really worked hard and put a good week of training in and it showed, we caught them cold early on and really got at them. We took full advantage of the extra man scoring three tries while he was off and from then on they were fighting to stay in the game. In the first half we were very good and although we were a touch sloppy at times the work rate was exceptional and every player contributed including those off the bench who made an impact.”
He went on to say; “this was a team effort as the tight five fronted up to a strong side and the mindset of those guys went through the team, the back row were exceptional and worked tirelessly and it’s good to see the half backs using their heads and taking what’s on offer and utilising the great running angles of the backs.”
Hoppers dominated from the outset and were 3-0 ahead in the opening minutes as Graham Holroyd kicked a penalty, but it was an off the ball stamp by Luctonians Alex Davidson that set the tone as the visitors wanted to be physical and bully the game and Hoppers used the ten minute man advantage following his yellow card to score three tries and take full control of the game.
Hoppers got there first just minutes after the sin binning as a nice line out move sucked in the defence before the backs showed good hands to put Anthony Elliott over in the corner.
Dominic Moon then grabbed two tries in five minutes as he was on hand to round off some superb work from Jack Ward and Phil Baines. Ward picked a great line off a set scrum move to cut back against the grain and then fend off a would be tackler before offloading to Moon who was charging up in support to cross. Moon was then on hand to sprint over, again from the 22, as Phil Baines refused to be tackled and set up the number 8. Following good pressure and a decisive counter it looked as if Baines was to be taken into touch but he fought his way through several tackles to allow time for his support to arrive in the form off Moon, Holroyd converted both tries giving Hoppers a 22-0 lead just before Luctonians returned to full strength.
Hoppers would then survive the only sustained period of pressure the visited mounted in the first half as they held out on their own try line for multiple phases and set plays after being surprised by a quick tap penalty but great determination and superb tackling kept Luctonians out. Hoppers then secured the bonus point as Will Keenan walked in to capitalise on a huge overlap after Hoppers had turned the ball over and recycled the ball well to suck in the defence.
If Luctonians had any thoughts of a miraculous comeback they were thwarted in the first ten minutes of the second half as Hoppers grabbed two more tries. Following a good break by Moon and support by Holroyd down the right flank Chris Gale somehow scored after looking to be tackled just as he crossed the 22, but great determination and some support powered him over the line.
Nathan Fowles then crossed as Ally Murray turned the ball over and broke the gain line before linking with Sean Long to set up the young scrum half who showed his pace to sprint into the corner.
There were several good opportunities to increase the lead as Luctonians were resigned to defeat but still looking to play rugby and score a try. They finally got on the score sheet after Jimmy Norris, who was by far their best player, turned the ball over in his own 22 and sprinted away (with some help from a team mates unique running line) to score what for him was a deserved try.
Hoppers wouldn’t let their opponents have the final say as replacement Matt Gargett showed his finishing ability to cross twice after nice kicks through. First he latched on to a nice kick through after a scrum to score and then gathered in a perfectly weighted Holroyd cross kick to round off the game in style.
This is how Hoppers would love to play each week, it was a total performance with superb individual displays across the board. It was great to hear people talking after the game with differing views on man of the match all making great cases for four or five players. If Hoppers play like this every week they will be a match for anyone around them.
Below are some excellent photos courtesy of Mike Craig.
Below are the highlights of all Hoppers scores from the game.