SALE SHARKS DIVISION 5 NORTH
FLEETWOOD 3rd XV 5-55 PGRFC 5th XV
By Special Correspondent: Oliver (The Bard) Mason
It was a cold and blustery March day, the sort of cold you feel in your bones. Not if you are a Hopper though. As a Hopper it was just another day to grace the hallowed turf for 80 minutes.
A light dusting of snow descended on the imperious figures of Preston’s finest, casting a silhouette of majesty on an otherwise bleak landscape. The teams lined up, Preston just ten meters from the Fleetwood side ready to lay down their lives for the glory of victory, but only one side could claim that honour and that was be quickly determined. The snow became thicker as the ball sailed through the air for kick off. Within moments Preston had secured possession and were making ground through majestic phase play, moves flowing together like the effortless grace of a perfectly crafted concerto.
A scrum on Fleetwood’s 22 metre line, the towering visiting pack drove the Fleetwood side back and a lovely presentation lead to Ben Rigg picking from the back of the scrum and powering through several tackles before a beautifully timed supportive run from Jimmy Gray (with some footwork that wouldn’t be amiss on the dance floors of Blackpool’s ballrooms) who fox-trotted his way through to score the first try. The buoyant enthusiasm of strong running from the likes of Will Davies and that man Ben Rigg motivated Martin “Tinny” Taylor into an outlandish up and under which after great play from the forwards lead to him swan diving over the line for a wonderfully crafted second try.
Battling play from both sides lead to an opening out wide where Nick Johnson took advantage and with a mazy run he made his way over the try line leaving the opposition players around him dazed and confused. After the restart once more, the Preston pack dominated and piled on the pressure leading to some silky ball play from the backs, with moves so smooth they made velvet look like sandpaper.
The only option left for Fleetwood was to cynically knock on. No card was produced but a beautifully quick penalty was, leading to Alex Johnson flying over the try line for an exquisite Hoppers fourth. With pressure being piled on with the force of a hippo in stilettos, the Hoppers couldn’t help but score again with that man Martin “Tinny” Taylor cruising through the Fleetwood defence to cross the line for another Hoppers try.
At this point the Beast from the East #2 descended on Fleetwood, with visibility reduced and biting winds fitting of Siberia itself cutting across the pitch. There was only one option, persevere. As men of strong mind and even stronger hearts the Preston faithful did as any red-blooded Lancashire lad would do and ran over the try line once more with Ben (Ben10) Markland weaving through the Fleetwood back line like a fine tapestry.
The chat at half time was about calling off proceedings due to the blizzard that had encapsulated the pitch like the freezing grip of a yeti’s embrace. After much deliberation play was resumed for the second half and once more Hoppers domination was resumed, with injuries to Fleetwood, Preston loaned out 3 players to assist in keeping the match competitive and enjoyable.
However, the snow had hit so heavily that the lines were so hard to see our own Will Davies ran off the pitch thinking he had found space out of nowhere only to be flagged up in something reminiscent of an American Football play. The driving snow seemed to ease up and the clouds parted as the sun peaked out almost in praise for the next run of the seemingly ever energetic Chris Jenkins who must have been riding on those Siberian winds as he breezed through the entire Fleetwood defence to score having picked up the ball from his own 22 metre line. As the clouds departed Alex Johnson picked out a kick to the corner in an audacious bit of play that lead to Martin “Tinny” Taylor once more soaring over the try line to take his tally to 3 and secure a fine day for himself.
Chris Jenkins decided he wasn’t quite done yet so having received the ball from a back’s move so delicious it would merit a Hollywood handshake he powered through to cross the line for the final points for the Preston heroes, with 9 Tries and 5 conversions. The perfect clean sheet was to be robbed away by none other than one of Preston’s own, having pocketed his 30 pieces of silver Claude “Judas” Kirton bundled the ball over the try line to make it 5 points to Fleetwood and with seconds of the game remaining there was to be no response.
The final whistle was greeted with cheers from the Preston players but also applause from the Fleetwood side who battled away and played with great grit and heart in a fantastic display of both rugby and sportsmanship. A towering performance by every man in a Hoppers shirt as Preston look to establish a great platform for next season.