Preston Grasshoppers 55-13 Loughborough Students
Hoppers ended the season on a high running in seven tries and giving the Students a taste of their own medicine with some fast paced attacking rugby. It was all based around a fantastic forward display lead by the talismanic Dominic Moon who added three tries to his impressive season tally. The front row played their part with a great performance at the set piece and in the loose and the half back pairing of Nathan Fowles and Sean Long tormented the visitors all day.
Head Coach Dave Baldwin was delighted with the performance and also the season saying; “I am very pleased with the day we had a really good crowd and we entertained them with some great rugby. Early on we were not quite at the races but then the front row got into the game and they were fantastic, if we play like that we should fear no one.”
As Baldwin said it was Loughborough who set the early pace with their usual high tempo style but Hoppers defence held strong, something that was to shine throughout and after seeing off the early pressure it was the hosts who scored first with a Nathan Fowles penalty, Fowles has never looked back after taking the kicking duties and slotted all nine of his kicks.
Sam Katz would level the score for Loughborough and the champions took the lead with a Courtney Morrison try midway through the half, Hoppers fell off a couple of tackles in broken field play and the centre picked a good arching line to sprint clear, Katz added the conversion.
This seemed to spur Hoppers into life as they came back into the game straight away with an up tempo offloading game through the forwards and after turning over a scrum inside the visitors 22 Moon grabbed his first try to level the scores, powering his way over from the base of a maul.
It would be a scrum that would start Hoppers second try, this time inside their own 22, Killian Wallace made a good break before the ball was quickly recycled and centres Mike Haley and Jack Ward both carried well before an inside ball put Phil Baines over for a brilliant score.
Katz slotted a penalty to cut the deficit but Fowles converted his second on half time to take the sides in 20-13.
The second half was all Hoppers as they turned on the pressure and the style; starting with a Fowles try after he caught the defence on its heels with a quick tap and sprinted clear of the defence from 3o yards out.
Moon and Baines both grabbed their second tries from 5m scrums; Hoppers pack was clearly in the ascendancy and Moon was able to control things from the base before smashing his way over the line. A few minutes later the same thing looked to be happening but Loughborough held their ground, Moon then combined with Fowles whose fizzing pass gave Baines the easiest of scores in the left corner.
Hoppers really had the bit between their teeth with the bonus point and the game safe and started to turn on the style,a wonderful flowing counter attack was rounded off when Long put Moon into space just five metres out for the hat trick.
Replacement Chris Gale put the score past fifty to seal a memorable win, it may only have been a simple touch down near the posts but it was well deserved as his combination with Phil Mills just inside the visitors half combined with a superb offload to Long was worth a try on its own, and although Long was stopped inches short Hoppers got quick ball and it was only fitting that Gale touched down.
This was a fitting way to end a great league campaign for Hoppers and Baldwin was confident in looking forward to the next year saying; “the emphasis here is on the team and not the individual, we are looking to move forward positively and are now playing an improved style of rugby. The seconds are key for bringing players through and you only need to look at the young talent we have to see that they will be pushing for more regular game time very soon. I am delighted with third and believe we will be challenging the leaders next season”
Here is the footage of Hoppers 7 tries.
Here are some excellent pictures taken by Mike Craig
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