Intelligence suggested that Loughborough would be re-building this season after a number of key players had moved on but, from their first half display, it appeared that the process was already complete. The Students dominated the first half and fully deserved their 25-7 lead at the break.
But Hoppers, after a bright start, contributed to the situation with a below par performance. Coach Dave Baldwin commented: “We started well and scored an early try but unforced errors and a poor display in the tight and lineouts surrendered the initiative and a talented side like Loughborough will always take advantage. After conceding another soft try, we came to in the second period, won more possession and brought our backs into play and showed character to finish strongly. Plenty to work on for next week.”
Home kicker, Hall, opened the scoring with a wind-assisted long penalty, in the 4th minute but Hoppers hit straight back and, breaking blind, prop Mark Irving’s offload in the loose, allowed Matt Hughes to sprint over and Mark Edwards converted.
Hoppers’ failed to keep up the momentum as a strong and aggressive home pack created a number of turnovers and Hall reduced the arrears with another penalty after 12 minutes. Then a lost lineout and poor scrummaging saw home No.8 Lamming pick up and drive over and lost possession at the restart allowed the Loughborough backs to show their handling skills, scrum half Weir finishing off a sweeping move.
Hoppers’ dysfunctional lineout again lost possession and fast hands produced an overlap for wing Holland in the 25th minute. As the half drew to a close, only some desperate defence kept the score at 25-7.
Things looker even bleaker for Hoppers as an early attack saw lock Conquest power over in the corner but then Coach Baldwin rang the changes from the bench and at last and the pack began to provide some quality ball. The backs were at last brought into play and a typical barnstorming break from Tom Hughes led to a try in the corner for Karl Fitzpatrick, who, now at fly half, then produced a classic break Although a wrong option seemed to have wasted the chance, debutant scrum half Nathan Fowles set off on a run and Sean Taylor cut through to score at the posts and his conversion made it 30-19.
Despite conceding another penalty, it was all Hoppers for the last 10 minutes but ragged defence, at times illegal, denied them a fourth try and two losing bonus points.
Next Saturday, Hoppers host Caldy at Lightfoot Green, kick off 2.30 pm.
15 Sean Taylor 14 Matt Hughes 13 Tom Hughes 12 Karl Fitzpatrick 11 Phil Baines 10 Mark Edwards 9 Nathan Fowles 1 Oga Mabaya 2 Alan Martindale 3 Mark Irving 4 Ali Atkinson 5 Mark Rigbye 6 Matt Charters (C) 7 Will Bordill 8 Dominic Moon 16 Brad Tuff (2) 17 Chris Lowden (1) Mark Phillips (8) James Smith (9) Russell Flynn (10)