Preston Grasshoppers 17 – 13 Leicester Lions
(Image provided courtesy of Mick Craig)
Head Coach Dave Baldwin was happy with the four points but admitted the performance was a bit of a mixed bag not helped by periods of appalling weather.
Baldwin was pleased with the first half performance saying the side played well; “we were tough and well disciplined and took our opportunities, scoring two good tries, we were looking to kick on and record a bonus point but that changed second half due to the weather” he went on to add; “in the second half we didn’t adapt to the conditions and again tried to play too much behind the gain line, we committed silly penalties and need to do a better job handling the pressure, but the guys dug deep and we were able to get the victory.”
Hoppers looked like they were on the way to recording a bonus point victory as they ran in two first half tries, both starting deep in their own half, and were defensively able to handle the visiting attacks with ease, looking solid and aggressive without the ball. Leicester did enjoy some early possession but a combination of good Hoppers defence, a lack of any real penetration and an off kicking display meant for all Leicester’s territorial advantage the game was scoreless mid way through the half.
The game needed a try and Matt Hughes was on hand to continue his fine start to the season as he recorded two scores in quick succession with the help of some great work from his teammates. The first started with a scrum deep in Hoppers territory, Dominic Moon was able to make good ground from the base and offloaded to scrum half Nathan Fowles, the youngster had too much pace for the covering defence and his perfectly timed pass drew the full back and allowed Hughes to coast in untouched.
Hoppers second try was just as eye catching as Sean Taylor did well to take a high ball in difficult conditions before setting off on an impressive counter attack, Tom Hughes was a willing support man and once his pass had put Hughes into space nobody was going to catch the flying winger, Graham Holroyd was successful with both conversions and Hoppers had a 14-0 half time lead.
After an early exchange of penalties the second half was impacted by a torrential down pour which changed the outlook of the contest. Handling became even more difficult and Leicester were able to use their pack and a very effective catch and drive to force their way back into the game, Leicester were also helped by a numerical advantage as Mark Phillips was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle.
Leicester scored two tries following five metre line outs as their forwards got more and more into the game as the weather worsened. Replacement Ben Spokes and then Tom Cheney powered over from close range, Hoppers defence was able to resist the initial drive on both occasions but Leicester were able to recycle the ball well. They could even have stolen the points as they had another line out 22 with minutes to go but Hoppers held on for victory.
Hoppers certainly need to work on some aspects of their game as the set piece is not functioning as they would like and for the second week running they have got bogged down and dragged into a physical encounter against a weaker opponent, but as Dave Baldwin said this is a game that they probably would have lost last season but he can look to some exceptional individual performances and the knowledge that when provided with good ball the back line looks capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.
Next week sees the team travel to newly promoted Bromsgrove who have made a solid start to the season with two wins from their opening four matches.
Sean Taylor, Matt Hughes, Tom Hughes, Karl Fitzpatrick (Russ Flynn), Phil Baines, Graham Holroyd, Nathan Fowles, Andrew Irving, Alan Martindale, Mark Irving (Chris Lowden), Mark Rigbye, Ali Atkinson, Mark Phillips (Will Bordill), Matt Charters, Dominic Moon
Unused subs: Brad Tuff, Mark Murray
Below are some shots of yesterday’s ball boys and match mascot.
Mick Craig has once again taken some excellent shots of yesterday’s game. They can be viewed here.