Fylde 33 Loughborough Students 81
It was mayhem in the sun at the Woodlands in a seventeen try spectacular as visitors Loughborough Students ran riot to beat Fylde 33-81. It has been a very long time since Fylde have conceded this number of points, away from the Woodlands or at home. They were taken apart by dynamic Loughborough Students attacking from the first minute. The Students’ fate in National One was at stake and they brought in a number of dual registered young Premiership players to give themselves the best chance of avoiding the drop. And this paid off in spades. Not that Fylde didn’t have glorious moments of flowing rugby too, especially as player of the season, Tom Carleton, scored a spectacular last minute try to finish off the game in front of the very busy Clubhouse.
The Students blasted out of their traps as they took total control of the match. Within the first minute they attacked down the right and winger Jack Stapley found space to race over for the opening try. Fullback Tim Bitirim, who was to have an outstanding match, converted for a 0-7 lead.
Fylde were missing first up tackles and the Students capitalised on this with knobs on. Impressive blindside flanker Sam Lewis galloped through the home defence in the 5th minute to score near the posts. Lewis has a top pedigree – he has started 17 Premiership games for Worcester Warriors this season and previously had a couple of seasons in Ospreys Pro12 squad.
Fylde were desperately trying to stop the flow of Loughborough possession. In doing so, they were conceding penalties at the breakdown. The Students kicked for the corner and pressed on the Fylde line. A maul collapsed and referee Llyr ApGeraint Roberts awarded an immediate penalty try. 0-21 after 9 minutes.
From the restart kick, Tom Burtonwood put in a huge hit on the Students’ scrum-half Jack Moates who received treatment before getting back into the action. Four minutes later the Students moved the ball through forwards and backs and fly-half Owen Walters slalomed through the home defence for his side’s bonus point try. Bitirim missed his first conversion but at 0-26 after only 13 minutes then the home side looked shell shocked.
Fylde at last put together some possession and attacking élan. They worked their way along the left touchline and, 15m out from the Students’ line, centre Chris Briers took a defender out with a miss pass to winger Jake Foster who squeezed in to the corner for his debut 1st team try. Greg Smith converted very well from the touchline. 7-26.
That proved as close as Fylde would get to Loughborough’s advantage. The Students were soon back inside the Fylde 10m line as the home side defended for their lives. Lock Matt Garrod was adjudged to have illegally interfered at a ruck and was sent to the sin bin. The Students continued to press near the line before lock Luke Frost forced his way over the line. Bitirim converted for a 7-33 lead.
It was certainly not all one way traffic. Fylde attacked on the half hour and 30m out from the Students line Greg Smith put in a neat chip over the advancing defensive line. Chris Briers was first to react and caught the ball on the full to score near the posts. Smith converted easily to reduce the deficit to 14-33.
Once again, the Students hit back immediately. More pressure near the Fylde line ended with scrum-half Moates squeezing through the bottom of a ruck to get the touchdown. Tim Bitirim converted to take his side to 40 points. A straightforward penalty kick by Bitirim ended the 1st half on 14-43.
The Students started the 2nd half in the same way as they began the game with excellent attacking rugby. Centre Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas finished off a good move by scoring wide out. Bitirim was unable to add the extras.
The roller coaster shifted once more as Fylde pressed deep inside the Students 22m area. The forwards drove forward and villain turned hero Matt Garrod claimed the close quarters try, with Smith kicking the conversion for 21-48.
This proved a brief respite for the home side. The Students dominated the next 15 minutes and scored four more tries in a sustained onslaught. Fylde contributed to the first of these when from an attacking position, a flat pass along the backline on halfway was read by Tim Stapley, brother of winger Jack, and he raced clear for a soft try under the posts. Stapley is another player with considerable senior experience with the Ireland 7s squad, Ulster & Dubai Exiles.
By now, Chris Davies had come off the bench to replace fly-half Owen Waters. In the 56th minute it was Davies who broke the Fylde defensive line to score down the left. In the 62nd minute it was the turn of Jack Stapley to notch his 2nd try of the game out wide. Then five minutes later man of the match Tim Bitirim chipped over the Fylde defence and caught it on the full to score under the posts. He converted his own try to extend the Students’ lead to an overwhelming 21-74 lead.
Fylde heads didn’t drop as they attacked the Clubhouse end. Tom Carleton hadn’t found much space up to now but made a fine break in the 70th minute. As he was caught by the Students defenders, he offloaded brilliantly to his former Kirkham Grammar team mate Connor Wilkinson who sprinted clear 35m out to score with ease.
The Students weren’t finished as they scored their 12th try as Joe Heyes drove over in the left corner and Bitirim converted very well. A bout of ‘handbags’ followed immediately but was sensibly handled by the referee.
The final moments of the match produced the best try. A kick ahead by the Students bounced on the Fylde 22m line. Connor Wilkinson fielded the ball and turned away from the clutches of a chasing Loughborough back. He made fast progress down the left touchline before passing inside to Tom Carleton on halfway. The youngster changed gear and raced through the Students defence. The massive no 8 Freddie Tullagi faced him but he skipped around him easily and made the try line to the delight of the big crowd. Greg Smith kicked an excellent conversion from out wide to finish the game. It was a nice moment to end the home games in this very difficult season for Fylde. But it shouldn’t disguise the size of the defeat and the excellence of the Loughborough performance.
FYLDE: 15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Jake Foster (Luke Fowden 55); 10 Greg Smith, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Adam Lewis, 2 Tom Burtonwood, 3 Mark Irving (Dan Richardson 41), 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Olli Parkinson (Ben Gregory 55), 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Toby Harrison (Nick Ashcroft 48), 8 Ben Vernon (Adam McCarthy 48).