Fylde lost their first home game of the season when Hull RUFC took deserved points from the Woodlands back to the East Yorkshire city – and with it the Lancastrians leadership of National Two (North). 13 league places separated the two clubs before the game but there was never much difference on the excellent Woodlands pitch this day.
Although Fylde held a useful 20-12 lead at half-time they struggled to put any pressure on the visitors defence for a large proportion of the 2nd half. Hull outscored them overall by three tries to two and despite a Fylde comeback late on the home side proved scoreless in the 2nd period.
Hull had stiffened up their squad with the recent signing of a few former Doncaster Knights players including the massive tighthead prop Joe Sproston following on a week after the debut of former Premiership prop Charlie Beech. With a back five including veteran Tongan international Latu Makaffi, they have a formidable pack that will test most N2N clubs.
The visitors set their stall out from the early moments. In the 2nd minute a loose Fylde kick down field was fielded by Hull fullback Steve McColl who sprinted 50m through some ineffective tackling before feeding the fast supporting wing Mike Adlard to score down the right. Former Hunslet RL fly-half Reece Dean was unable to add the conversion
Fylde then took control of the game and began to win penalties as Hull were forced to defend. In the 7th minute home fly-half Greg Smith opted to kick a straightforward penalty to get his side on the scoreboard.
Five minutes later following another penalty award Smith kicked for the right corner. Although the attempted driving maul was stopped, the forwards retained possession through several phases before backrower Jacob Conner forced his way over to claim the touchdown. Smith converted and Fylde had a 10-5 lead.
In the 17th minute following more sustained pressure inside the Hull half, centre Scott Rawlings took the ball at speed some 20m from the visitors’ line and broke through the defence to score without a hand laid on him. The big man had an excellent game throughout. Smith converted and Fylde were sitting pretty at 17-5. It looked as though the league leaders had the measure of a tough and determined Hull squad.
However, it didn’t turn out that way. The huge Hull front row in the shape of Sproston and Beech began to dominate in the scrummages and won their own share of penalties. But it was indifferent Fylde tackling in the 22nd minute which led to the visitors hitting back thanks to a mazy run from the impressive fullback McColl after crucial work by winger Adlard which shredded the Fylde defence. Reece Dean converted and Hull were right back in the hunt at 17-12 in arrears.
On the stroke of half-time there was another penalty awarded to Fylde 5m inside the Hull half. Greg Smith opted pragmatically to kick for goal and the long range attempt was true. The teams trotted off to the changing rooms with Fylde leading by 20-12.
It was obvious that this was going to be a close affair with the visitors, as in recent games, very competitive all over the pitch. They haven’t had much luck in these matches, losing a number by fine margins. Would this be a turning point in the season for them?
One thing was sure, Hull completely dominated the play after the break. It was almost 20 minutes into the 2nd half before Fylde made serious inroads into the Hull half. The visitors were camped inside the Fylde 22m line for sustained spells as the beleaguered home defence worked hard to repel the avalanche of attacks. They conceded numerous penalties near their line as the Hull pack piled forward. In the 62nd minute Hull gained their reward as the ever dangerous winger Adlard burst through the Fylde defence down the right and raced clear to score under the posts. Dean’s conversion was straightforward and the visitors had the lead for the first time at 20-22.
Fylde belatedly came into the game as an attacking force. But whatever they tried was undermined by small errors of handling or wrong options as they tried to get back in front. The normal creative sources which have unlocked defences so far this season, especially centre Connor Wilkinson and fullback Tom Carleton, found the Hull defence unyiellding as the minutes ticked by.
Fylde earned a penalty 40m out on the left side. It would have been a tricky kick to take the lead but Greg Smith has landed these this season. It was decided to kick for the corner but from the subsequent lineout Hull regained possession and the chance was lost.
Scott Rawlings was forced off with a facial injury to be replaced temporarily by Tom Forster but such was the urgency of getting the home team’s man of the match back into the action that he was quickly patched up and re-joined the fray.
In the last minute the Fylde backs went right and it looked as though they might break down the defence but once again a handling error in contact undermined their efforts metres short of the Hull try line. When referee Daniel Woods eventually blew the final whistle the Hull players understandably celebrated joyously. They had broken their run of eight games without a win and had done so by toppling the league leaders. Their mix of forward pressure, judicious kicking and the speed of McColl and Adlard in particular had earned the win.
Fylde’s misery was complete when the news of Caldy’s narrow 12-16 victory at Wharfedale came through and the Cheshire club now lead National Two (North) by two points with a game in hand. 3rd placed Sedgley Park’s big win at home to Otley, Fylde’s next two opponents, confirmed the North Manchester club’s challenge in 3rd place in the division.
Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “We’re all very disappointed to lose our unbeaten home record to date. We struggled to hold their midfield and when we moved the ball wide we probably moved it too early and that’s a fault we rarely commit.
“All credit to Hull. They came with a game plan defensively and it worked for them. We had opportunities but when we did get the ball wide, but there were too many handling errors out in the wide channels by lads who have played really well for us in previous games. All teams have off days and this was one for us.
“It’s important that we learn that if we’re in the fight for 40-50 minutes we need to understand what needs to be done to influence the game to make sure we’re victorious. We’ve learnt from our mistakes in previous seasons and I would have expected us to have done more to get the result today.
“We were poor when we were turned over in attack and we didn’t protect and secure the ball well enough, especially around the tackle area. When we lost the ball we were very slow to transition from attack to defence and that is frustrating. Our defending from set pieces was fine but when transitioning from attack to defence we were really poor, too slow and insufficiently organised. We’ll correct that for forthcoming games.”
FYLDE: 15 Carleton; 14 Botha, 13 Wilkinson, 12 Rawlings (Forster 68-74), 11 Grimes; 10 Smith, 9 Lanigan; 1 Horner, 2 Loney, 3 Lewis, 4 Ashcroft N, 5 Parkinson, 6 Conner, 7 Gregory, 8 Chapman.
Non-playing replacements: Ashcroft M, Stephenson, Wild, O’Ryan.