Friday night saw the second team ease to a third victory of the season against near neighbours Fylde and consolidate their position in the upper reaches of the Bateman Conference A. The men from the Woodlands looked set to upset the form book as an interception try saw them take the lead after nine minutes. Fylde defended doggedly in the first half alhought they offered little in attack. The hosts tackled well, contested the breakdown and set about organising a firm defensive line. Once Hoppers took control of the breakdown Fylde’s only threat came from tap penalties or counter attacks. Hoppers dominated the set piece throughout and once they got the better of their opponents it soon a question of how many Lough’s men would score.
After going behind Hoppers kept the pressure on Fylde and an overthrown line out worked to their advantage as England Colleges fly-half reacted sharply before dancing his way through the home defence. Smith added the extras and Hoppers led 7-5.
Shortly after Fylde dropped out from their twenty two and captain Matt Charters caught athletically before embarking on a forty yard break that culminated in him putting Matt Hughes over in the right corner. Hoppers led 12-5 at half time and on reflection the half had been dominated by unforced errors and the referee’s whistle.
The break saw Lough rouse his side and Hoppers came sprinting out of the blocks. The second period was dominated by the men from Lightfoot Green with Jon Wells prominent whilst Reddick and Flynn caused problems for the Fylde three-quarters.
Hoppers showed greater patience and by going through the phases created more opportunities to send the ball wide. Such play saw Harry Reddick put Hoppers 17-5 ahead before Tom Smith punished some illegal play by adding a penalty in front of the posts. Reddick then crossed for his second before the excellent Sam Gale set up Allen for a second of his own. Man of the match Russ Flynn scored late on to take the score to 37-5 and Hoppers had secured a well deserved victory.
On reflection Hoppers may have wished for a few more points so as to improve their points difference but their profligacy in the first half put paid to that.
In three games against Fylde this season the second team have scored one hundred and thirty eight points, conceding just ten. The statistic is a testament to the way on which the second team have tried to play this season and at odds with one detractor who somewhat harshly claimed that they play “one up rugby”.
Another encouraging footnote from Friday was the support Hoppers received on the night. Head coach Dave Baldwin and a number of his first team squad made the journey up to Fylde along with a number of loyal Hoppers fans. The players and coaching staff really appreciated the encouragement in what was a sign of the collective spirit which exists in the senior squad at he moment.
Next week Hoppers travel down the M60 to second place Stockport who, with twenty-three points, sit one place above the second team. Leaders Sedgley (on twenty-five points) are not in action so a Hoppers victory will see them take top spot. In doing so the game between Hoppers and league favourites Sedgley on the 24th March would take even greater significance. All being well Hoppers will have some of their absentees available again in the next few weeks thus boosting their league and cup aspirations.