SHEFFIELD TIGERS 23 PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 20
By Ken Moore
After 25 minutes Hoppers seemed to be coasting to another comfortable victory with 17 unanswered points in the bag but a poor second half saw the hosts claw their way back to claim an unlikely win. Hoppers had the opportunity to tie the scores with a last minute penalty in front of the posts but opted to go for touch and drive over for a winning bonus point try but knocked on in the process.
Disappointed coach, Michael Lough, reflected: “We let ourselves down today and, although we showed plenty of heart, a lack of discipline cost us dear and we just made too many mistakes. Credit to Sheffield who defended well in the second half and stuck to it.” And he did not criticize the decision to go for the win instead of settling for an almost certain draw: “The players make the decisions on the field and it was an example of our policy of responsible ambition.”
Hoppers scored with their first attacking move as Sean Taylor outpaced the defence and Lewis Allen converted. Some Tigers pressure was repulsed as Hoppers stole a 5-metre lineout while, at the other end, a drive from a similar situation made ground and, when the ball was released, Matt Hughes jinked through to touch down on 14 minutes.
Hoppers absorbed more home pressure and their control in the tight brought about a yellow card for home prop O’Donnell. Opting for touch rather than a kick at goal, the pack drove over with Andy Irving claiming the try.
Allen failed with the two difficult conversions but Hoppers were well on top with 25 minutes on the clock but handling errors increased, the home pack moved up a gear and a penalty put Tigers on the board. Numbers were evened up when Will Keenan saw yellow and then, back at full strength, the home pack gave Hoppers a taste of their own medicine with a long drive producing a try for lock Joel and a successful kick made it 17-10 at the break.
Alarm bells rang as Hoppers fumbled the restart and, although Hughes was tackled into touch just short, lost possession was seized upon by the home side and a converted breakaway try from No.8 Pearson levelled the scores.
Allen’s penalty on 55 minutes reclaimed the lead but Hoppers continued to lose possession and infringe, allowing kicker Outram to reply to make it all square again.
In the last 20 minutes Hoppers wasted several chances to make the game safe as desperate defence and wrong attacking options, including two clear squandered overlaps, failed to produce points. With 6 minutes left, frustration led to a ruck offence, Outram kicked his third penalty and Hoppers’ day was summed up as they managed to lose possession in that last-play drive for the line.
Next Saturday Hoppers host Hull Ionians who have won their first two games, kick off is at 2.30pm.