Fylde Hawks 26 Preston Grasshoppers 2nds 19
This was the sixth year of the Brendan Hanavan Trophy series of games between these oldest and closest rivals, a suitable tribute to Fylde’s much loved winger who died prematurely in 2013. The purpose of the series is to raise charitable funds in Brendan’s name, specifically for a cause nominated by his family, this year once again the Oral Cancer Foundation. The ethos of the rugby should be open, attacking play in the style of the man himself and the previous five matches have lived up to that objective.
The 2019 match at the Woodlands was an entertaining affair but a little different in that the two clubs had agreed that 2nd team Conference A league points would be at stake. As all matches between the clubs are very competitive, the opportunity of league points made no difference to the spirit in which the game was played.
‘Hoppers, the holders of the Trophy, began the game on the front foot and dominated possession and territory in the opening exchanges, camping inside the Fylde 22m line. The Hawks defence was tight and they then broke clear to deep within ‘Hoppers’ half. The home scrummage led by the front row of Tom Fox, Jonny Wild and Matt Ashcroft established early superiority and was a major factor in the 1st half.
Local Lytham St Annes product and utility back Tom Forster has had a successful season for the Hawks following a badly broken jaw which he suffered early in the campaign. He spent three seasons at Lightfoot Green and punished his old team mates by scoring the Hawks’ opening try following a sweeping attack. Skipper and fly-half David Reed added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The Fylde pack continued to press their opponents and from a ruck inside the ‘Hoppers 22m line scrum-half Adam Lanigan found a gap around the fringes and dived over for the try. Another local product, Lanigan has also had a very successful season for the Hawks and made his 1st team debut last autumn. David Reed was unable to add the extras but his side had a 12-0 advantage.
The balance of the game changed again as it was ‘Hoppers turn to attack. From a scrummage, they launched powerful forward Luke Proctor and he crashed over for a try. This was converted for a 12-7 score line.
Fylde re-established control immediately and with Forster and fellow centre Dan Jones combining neatly to take play deep in ‘Hoppers’ half, flanker Will Atkinson broke 20m to score a fine try to the right of the posts. Reed converted for a 19-7 lead.
The Fylde attack always looked to have the potential to launch attacks from deep in their own half and following great footwork by Tom Forster they went the length of the pitch with winger Matt Worsnip finishing off for the try of the game. David Reed kicked the conversion and Fylde went in to the break with a convincing 26-7 lead.
With replacements for both teams being thrown in to the mix, the 2nd half was rather different. Former 1st team players, now a few years older (!) – backs Mark Evans and Paul Green, forwards Alastair Atkinson and Rick Frith – took the stage and rolled back the years.
‘Hoppers took control and scored an early try when Tom Kin broke from a ruck and raced clear to score an important try to reduce the deficit to 26-12.
The gap closed further as ‘Hoppers Johnny Davies broke the Fylde defensive line and forced a penalty 5m out. Tyler Sloane burrowed over from close range to claim the try and the subsequent conversion put his side within striking distance at 26-19.
The Hawks stabilized their possession and territory and played out the last ten minutes to earn a deserved victory and the regaining of the Brendan Hanavan Trophy. This was Fylde’s third Trophy win, with ‘Hoppers having two and one draw. This 2019 version was a great effort from both teams with plenty of champagne rugby on display. Brendan would have enjoyed the game!