Caldy achieved a deserved victory at the Woodlands against Fylde to take the National Leagues’ North West bragging rights. The home side was competitive in the 1st half and led for a short period running up to injury time. A lovely try in the 40th minute by the most influential player on the pitch, Caldy fly-half Rhys Hayes, was crucial and the visitors were always in the lead from that moment.
Fylde’s biggest crowd of the season saw Caldy begin the match in dominating fashion. They attacked deep inside the Fylde half and pounded the home defence. In the 5th minute their pack drove towards the try line and prop Derek Salisbury forced his way over for the try. Fullback Gavin Roberts kicked the conversion for a 0-7 lead.
Minutes later Nick Royle, the former Fylde flyer who was returning to his old stamping ground, was freed down the right touchline, put in a grubber kick behind the defenders and raced for the touchdown. Fortunately for Fylde, Royle ran out of space as the ball skidded over the dead ball line.
Fylde gradually got into the game and they earned more possession and territory. Their forwards were working hard at the breakdown and, apart from the first scrummage, held their own in the tight exchanges. The Caldy defence was constantly on the edge of offside to cut down Fylde’s attacking options and referee Jonathan Cook began to take notice. In the 16th minute a Caldy player offended in his own half and Fylde fly-half Alex Dolly kicked an excellent long range penalty.
It was nip and tuck for the next twenty minutes, although Caldy looked the more dangerous side when they attacked through forwards and backs in combination. Fylde suffered a major setback on the half hour when winger Tom Grimes suffered a horrible dislocated finger injury which forced him off to the Medical Room and he was not to return. Greg Smith replaced him and this required a reshuffle of the backline with Dolly switching to fullback and Tom Carleton to the left wing.
In the 35th Caldy again offended in their own half and Dolly gratefully kicked his second penalty. Four minutes later it was a repeat, with another Dolly penalty to give Fylde a 9-7 lead. The Woodlands club are never more vulnerable than in the minutes running up to halftime and so it proved once again. Caldy attacked down the middle and the ever threatening Rhys Hayes stepped past numerous Fylde defenders in a 30m burst to the line for a fine try. Roberts converted for a 9-14 halftime lead.
In the act of scoring, Hayes collided with Fylde winger Henry Hadfield who didn’t return for the 2nd half. As Fylde had already used their one back replacement, flanker Ben Vernon was called off the bench to occupy, for him, the unusual position on the right wing.
The third quarter was dominated by Fylde as Caldy’s indiscipline was punished by referee Cook. They were awarded three penalties in four minutes, all just about in kicking range. Greg Smith attempted the first from the halfway line and it dropped short. Two minutes later Alex Dolly had a go nearer the posts but it drifted wide. Another two minutes passed and another penalty was conceded. Smith tried again but once again it was wide. In the 50th minute Caldy flanker Harrison Crowe was sinbinned to give Fylde more hope that they could claw back the 9-14 deficit.
However, the match was turned in the 56th minute as Caldy pressed deep in the Fylde half. Replacement prop Jake Pope was shown a straight red card for foul play. Roberts kicked the straightforward penalty to extend his side’s lead to 9-17. Caldy really had the bit between their teeth now and forced another penalty against the 14 men. Roberts once again converted it successfully.
It was now one way traffic and matters became even more difficult for the home side in the 67th minute when centre Luke Fowden was adjudged to have high tackled a Caldy player, was sent to the sinbin and his side was down to 13 players.
As the Caldy pack turned the screw, they were awarded a penalty try at a collapsed maul for a 9-27 score line.
Fylde heads didn’t drop and they drove forward in defiant mood with replacement flanker Curtis Langdon leading the charge. The most curious moment of the game followed as Fylde were urged on by the noisy crown in front of the Clubhouse. A series of phases set up a move left and Harlan Corrie stretched over the line to score. Alex Dolly quickly converted the try for a 16-27 score before, to the astonishment of home players and crowd alike, referee Cook over ruled his previous decision on the belated advice of an assistant referee and adjudged that Corrie had lost control of the ball in the act of scoring. There was an interesting discussion amongst pundits on the terraces as to whether this was a correct technical decision given that the conversion had already been successful. However, it made no serious difference to the overall direction and result of the match.
This was emphasised in the last minute when the 13 Fylde players were caught out by a jinking 30m burst by lively scrumhalf Ben Jones through a tired defence as he scored the bonus point try for his side. Roberts added the extras for a 9-34 final score.
This was a conclusive and totally deserved win for the well drilled and efficient Wirral club who wrapped up a double over Fylde following their 37-19 victory at Paton Field in September. Fylde will have a two week break and hope that 2018 will be more successful than the first half of the season.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield (Ben Vernon 41), 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Luke Fowden, 11 Tom Grimes (Greg Smith 28); 10 Alex Dolly, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Dan Richardson (Jake Pope 50), 2 Ben Gregory (Tom Burtonwood 41), 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Olli Parkinson (Harlan Corrie 69), 6 Harlan Corrie (Curtis Langdon 50), 7 Will Hopwood (Dan Richardson 69), 8 David Fairbrother.