Photo courtesy of Mick Craig
PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 36 NUNEATON 22
Hoppers got back to winning ways with a bonus point victory over a spirited Nuneaton side that caused them problems in the second half.
Head Coach Dave Baldwin said; “In the first half we were really good, I thought Graham Holroyd controlled the game well and our running lines off him were positive and caused problems. The second half was a bit of a disappointment as we didn’t get the same kind of possession and didn’t respond well to Nuneaton’s pressure.”
He added; “we stopped making the hard yards that we were able to make in the first half and the players got a bit complacent but we are happy with a bonus point victory as we had a lot of young players who really stood up and played well”
It took a while for the game to get going as both sides enjoyed an extended series of possession in the oppositions half in the opening ten minutes but were unable to break through the defensive line. Hoppers eventually opened the scoring on fifteen minutes as the capitalized on turn over ball. Holroyd put in a delicate chip which was well collected by Phil Baines and he combined well with Sean Taylor to put Matt Hughes in the clear and the flying winger added to his impressive try tally.
Hoppers extended their lead to 14 with a superb solo effort from Baines, Nuneaton kicked away possession straight to Holroyd who saw the space and quickly put Baines into a good position and the winger saw that he had forwards in front of him before cutting back to outpace the covering defence.
Nuneaton got on the scoreboard with a Lee Chapman penalty, but Holroyd responded with a penalty of his own before his customary cross field kick was perfectly judged for Matt Hughes who shrugged off the tackle to grab his second try, Holroyd added the conversion, in a near perfect kicking display, to send the sides in 24-3 at the break.
Nuneaton came out in the second half with an greater sense of urgency and caused Hoppers some problems, they got their first try as full back Elliot Brown was on the end of a nice move that capitalized on some poor defence to score in the corner.
Hoppers responded straight from the kick off as Taylor collected his own subtle chip and fed Russell Flynn, in his 250th appearance, put in a great kick through to find Baines in the corner for the bonus point score.
Nuneaton then dominated from then on and put together some good rugby as Hoppers lost their way. Tom Smitham rounded off a nice move after sustained Nuneaton pressure and with ten minutes to go Alex Fan broke off the back of a 5m scrum to power his way over the line and reduce the deficit to 29-22.
This gave Hoppers a nervous finish to the game but a great break from a scrum by Dominic Moon was just halted short of the try line by a knock on but Hoppers destroyed the Nuneaton scrum and Ally Murray touched down to seal the win.