Preston Grasshoppers 19 Hull Ionians 21
Hull Ionians left Lightfoot Green with a hard earned victory mainly due to an impressive forward display and 11 points from the boot of fly half Chris Reakes. Hoppers were unable to contend with the forward power especially late in the game as Ionians pack began to really exert there dominance.
Hoppers head coach Michael Lough said; “I was disappointed with the performance, we started flat and never got our act together until very late in the game. They were strong and competed well at the breakdown.”
“It was a tight game and we weren’t hard enough, they’re were some good individual performances but as a collective we were not good enough. Ionians came off the line very quick and were able to make a mess of our breakdown with ease and it was very effective. We needed to get on the front foot first but weren’t allowed to do so.”
In a penalty ridden first half it was the visitors that struck first with a Mark Wigham try in the opening minutes after a solid line out drive. Reakes added the extras to give Ionians a 7-0 lead, which they would never relinquish.
Hoppers would close the gap with a Matt Hughes score after a similar line out drive put them in great position and once they had sucked in the defence the ball was spun out to Sean Long who set up Hughes in the right corner.
Reakes would stretch the Ionians lead with a couple of penalties as Hoppers fell foul of the referee but the gap was cut to a single point at the half with Hoppers second try. This time it was another league convert Karl Fitzpatrick who was the provider with a wonderful off load following yet another catch and drive to set up full back Sean Taylor. Long added the conversion and the sides went in 12-13 at the break.
The second half followed with a similar pattern as the visitors were able to control the tempo along with the possession. Reakes added another penalty before Jon Steel got the crucial score in the right corner after a powerful scrum on the 22, the forwards made some hard yards through the midfield before the ball was released to the winger who finished well.
Hoppers got themselves back into the game with Taylor’s second try, again it was built through the forwards with good work from replacements Chris Gale and Phil Mills before the defence was sucked in allowing Hoppers to exploit the man advantage out wide.
Long could have won the game late but was held up well in touch and Ionians forwards ground out the last few minutes for a deserved win.
Photos below courtesy of Mike Craig