Date: 06 November 2011

Stockport 2’s 12 Hoppers 2’s 16

Hoppers second team made it ten out of ten after coming from behind to overcome Stockport in dramatic fashion. The visitors were forced to dig deep in what proved to be an exceptionally tense affair. Mike Lough’s men showed a resolve and determination that hadn’t been required since the opening day at Macclesfield or their trip to Burnage when they found themselves down to 12 men.

On a bright sunny afternoon Stockport dominated the early exchanges. At times it looked as though Hoppers would be overpowered by their hosts who boasted an advantage both in terms of size and experience. This was reflected when Stockport drove a scrum over from five metres out and if truth be told Hoppers looked somewhat shell shocked.

However, the men from Lightfoot Lane regrouped and the outstanding Mabaya began to make a mess of the Stockport scrum. His oppenent on the Loose-Head frequently resorted to illegal tactics at the set piece, yet went un-punished by the referee. This appeared to inspire the young Zimbabwean who would go on to make several barnstorming runs during loose play.

Shortly afterwards the unfortunate Doug Grimes succumbed to an ankle injury and he was replaced by debutant Jack Ward. The returning Ward will prove to be a real asset to the squad and his direct running added power to the Hoppers back line. Full-back Tom Grimes then glided over in the corner and Hoppers were back in the game.

In what was proving to be a real arm wrestle Stockport managed to disrupt a Hoppers scrum and scored a well worked try which took the score to 12-5. The visitors struck back by way of a Mark Edwards penalty. The stand-off enjoyed an excellent afternoon attacking the gain line, causing frequent problems for the Stockport loose-forwards and inside backs.

Hoppers turned round 12-8 behind and Lough shored things up by bringing on evergreen prop Dave Chadwick. The Hoppers pack then began to take control, in particular man of the match Andy Napier. The young flanker put in a tremendous defensive effort whilst carrying the ball effectively, thus giving his side a valuable platform. He was well assisted by his back row colleagues Connor Murphy and Will Keenan who repelled everything that Stockport threw at them.

Stockport appeared to tire whilst Hoppers seemed to gain more momentum which saw them control the ball in relative comfort. A well-worked line-out saw the visitors construct a fine second try for Tom Grimes. Hoppers were ahead for the first time and appeared to have weathered the home side’s storm. They continued to put pressure on the Stockport line with the strong running Haworth and ever-willing Keenan making some hard yards. The home side transgressed at the break down and Edwards stroked over a penalty from thirty metres out.

Hoppers led 16-12 but the hosts created one last chance which saw their giant full-back cut a devastating line through the visitor’s defence. It seemed to be a fatal breach with a winning Stockport try a mere formality. Crucially, the full-back off-loaded and this allowed Jonny Mahon to make a last ditch-match saving tackle.

This would be a key moment as Hoppers cleared their lines and held on for what was a well deserved and extremely hard fought victory. Thoughts immediately turned to news from Hull and the euphoria of the result was rightly tempered with a sense of disappointment. All players training this week will be looking to help the first team lads get back to winning ways when they make their own trip to Stockport next week.

Lough’s men meanwhile will be preparing for their big home clash with unbeaten Sedgeley Tigers. The “Mighty Twos” as they like to be known have, along with Macclesfied, dominated the Bateman Premier League over the past five years. Some observers will view Hoppers as the underdogs for the game but it is likely to be a hotly contested affair. Hoppers will have several players available once more and everybody within Lough’s squad will be anxiously awaiting Thursday’s team news to see if they have made the 18.


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