CALDY 25 FYLDE 18
This table topping contest was always a close affair but Caldy had sufficient control of the set pieces to edge home in wet conditions suiting their powerful pack. But Fylde were worthy opponents in an exciting contest and, despite losing their unbeaten record, they fought hard throughout and their losing bonus point kept them as leaders of National Two (North).
When a Caldy defender offended in the 13th minute, Fylde fly-half Greg Smith converted the penalty with a straight forward kick for a 0-3 lead. Caldy centre and goal kicker Gavin Roberts responded almost immediately when a Fylde player was pinged by referee Owen Taylor for not releasing the ball in a tackle by converting the penalty.
The Fylde scrummage began to be under pressure from the bulky Caldy pack and conceded a penalty in the 18th minute which was kicked to the corner. The powerful Caldy driving maul created space for the home side to move the ball right and former Fylde winger Nick Royle ambled over in the corner to score a simple try. Roberts converted well from near the touchline and Caldy had a 10-3 advantage.
Fylde’s running game was a constant danger to a stalwart Caldy defence and in the 24th minute they hit back. One attack led by winger Tom Grimes and flanker Jacob Conner was repelled. But excellent handling by backs and forwards ended when speed merchant Tom Carleton raced into the right corner to score a fine try. Smith added the extras to equalise at 10-all.
Play was now end to end and Caldy took the lead on the half hour when a fluent attack went one way and then another before centre Mike Barlow dived into the left corner to score. Once again Gavin Roberts converted well from wide out and his side had a 17-10 advantage, a lead that they were never to relinquish.
However, Fylde finished the half strongly and when they won a penalty in the Caldy half, Smith kicked for the corner. They were unable take advantage as a knock on allowed Caldy to finish the half by clearing the danger. It had been an entertaining 40 minutes with two teams well drilled, both seeing space and executing plays with skill and precision.
At the break, Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg replaced flanker Jacob Conner with Sale Sharks dual registered Sam Dugdale. The former Kirkham Grammar product returned to the squad after a very successful 2018-19 season at the Woodlands.
The 2nd half opened with a crucial home score. The referee awarded Caldy another penalty at a scrum and Fylde were unable to defend a perfectly executed driving maul from the home pack. Hooker Ted Stagg was last man up and claimed the try. Roberts was unable to convert this but there was daylight between the two teams as Caldy were 22-10 up.
Fylde responded in the best possible way. They pressed Caldy back in their own half before setting up a lovely move which saw centre Connor Wilkinson break clear before being hauled down by defenders. The ball was kept alive and simple passing created an overlap for Tom Carleton to grab his second try. Greg Smith’s attempted conversion drifted wide but at 22-15 the visitors were right back in the contest.
A lot of the play was now in midfield as both sides struggled for the next crucial score. Fylde won a couple of penalties as they scrapped gamely for possession but were unable to break down the aggressive Caldy defence.
In the 68th minute Caldy won another penalty when referee Taylor adjudged that their driving maul was pulled down. Roberts stepped up to kick an easy penalty from in front of the posts to take his side ten points clear.
Fylde battled back gamely in the final minutes. When they won a penalty in the 74th minute Greg Smith kicked the goal to take a losing bonus point at 18-25 in arrears. They continued to try and press for a converted try which would have levelled the scores but handling errors in the damp conditions undermined their efforts as the final whistle blew.
By preventing Caldy scoring a 4th try and an extra bonus point, Fylde retained the lead at the top of the division although the Cheshire club have a game in hand. A gap below the top two teams and the chasing pack is beginning to grow as Sedgley Park slipped up at Loughborough Students. Fylde will hope to do better when they welcome the Students to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 15.00) hoping to get back the winning habit.
Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “Caldy are without doubt the best team we’ve faced so far this season and we knew we were going to have to battle for everything when we turned up to a wet day that would suit their heavy forwards.
“We’re disappointed not to get the win but I’m really pleased that we stayed in the fight and were smart enough to close the gap to 7 points which meant we got a point that keeps us at the top of the league.”[Photo above courtesy of Jim Perrin]
FYLDE 15 Joe Carpenter; 14 Tom Carleton, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Scott Rawlings (Tom Forster 67), 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Adam Lanigan; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory (Alex Loney 64), 3 Adam Lewis (Matt Ashcroft 67), 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Jacob Conner (Sam Dugdale 40), 7 Ben Vernon (Ben O’Ryan 75), 8 David Fairbrother.
CALDY: 15 Rhys Hayes; 14 Nick Royle, 13 Gavin Roberts, 12 Mike Barlow, 11 Ben Jones; 10 Lewis Barker, 9 Cameron Davies; 1 John Whittaker (Jack Parker 61), 2 Ted Stagg (Ollie Hearn 54), 3 Derek Salisbury, 4 Jack Collister (Martin Gerrard 54), 5 Tom Sanders, 6 Harrison Crowe (Callum Ridgway 75), 7 Adam Aigbokhae 8 JJ Dickinson. Non-playing replacement: Cameron Owen.