South Leicester 12 Fylde 59
Fylde put more pressure on the leading two clubs in National Two (North) with an overwhelming victory on their first ever trip to South Leicester. They took early control of the game at the Welford Road Ground and were never in danger of finishing second. Their nine tries against South’s two reflected the gulf between the teams.
An official attendance figure of 49 spectators reflects South’s struggles this season. A statistical curiosity is that this was the third successive league match in which they’ve conceded 59 points.
Fylde dominated possession and territory from the opening minutes. It took them 8 minutes to open the scoring when, following a maul and subsequent ruck 10m from South’s line, scrum-half Cam Crampton and fly-half Greg Smith whipped out a pass to winger Tom Carleton who scored with ease. Greg Smith converted this for a 0-7 lead.
Four minutes later the Fylde forwards launched a sustained driving maul which splintered the home pack. Hooker Ben Gregory was the last man up. Smith added the extras with a good kick to the right of the posts.
In the 16th minute South hit back strongly with a sharp try by fullback Jonathan Hughes. Fly-half Dan Glasse was unable to kick the conversion from wide out but the deficit had been reduced to 5-14.
Fylde soon took back control and in the 19th minute increased their lead. It was almost an exact re-run of their first try when, from a ruck in the left corner near the South line, the ball was shifted quickly to Carleton who popped the ball up to Crampton who dotted down for the try. Smith added an excellent conversion from near the touchline.
In the 23rd minute Fylde set up another driving maul 15m out from South’s line, this time down the right and with the same result as previously. Once again it was Ben Gregory at the back of the maul who dived over for his 2nd try. Greg Smith missed the conversion but his side had a 5-26 advantage.
South Leicester grittily tried to work their way back into the contest. On the half hour and 25m out from their line they moved the ball left through their backs. Fylde no 8, arch opportunist Jacob Conner, read the pass and nipped in to intercept and trot to the line for his 2nd try for the Club. Smith converted easily.
Fylde finished the first period in the best possible way with a move started deep in their own half. Prop Bevan Rodd and flanker Sam Dugdale moved the ball left and centre Chris Briers threw long to Tom Carleton. He raced to the halfway line before finding his wing partner, the fast supporting Henry Hadfield. The powerful Cumbrian, not for the first time in the game, raced clear down the centre before passing to centre Connor Wilkinson who finished off with aplomb. Smith converted to take his side to the break with a 5-40 lead.
Six minutes into the 2nd half Fylde extended their advantage with a classic Carleton try. From inside their own 22m line forwards and backs worked the ball left to reach the former Kirkham Grammar student. He raced along the touchline, swerved around a desperate defender on the halfway line and there was no catching the speedster. Greg Smith missed the subsequent conversion.
Once again, South fought back and in the 50th minute hooker Reece Harris forced his way over for a good try. Glasse added the extras to reduce the deficit to 12-45.
Two more excellent long distance Fylde tries were to come. In the 55th minute Carleton fielded a loose ball deep inside his own half, drifted imperiously past a couple of South’s advancing troops before finding Henry Hadfield on the halfway line. He stormed along the touchline before passing inside to Connor Wilkinson who in turn found the fast supporting Greg Smith. The fly-half was clear and finished off this lovely move under the posts. He converted his own try easily.
The final score was in the 68th minute when 10m out from their own line Fylde moved the ball right to find Hadfield who once more burst clear down the middle. He linked with Greg Smith who in turn found Carleton. The winger raced clear to finish under the posts for his hat-trick, and 22nd try of the season. Smith converted for a 12-59 lead. The game finished off quietly in the last ten minutes, with Fylde’s work well and truly done.
With leaders Hull Ionians slipping up at home to Sedgley Park and Huddersfield receiving a sharp lesson at Stourbridge, Fylde strengthened their promotion challenge although they remain in 3rd place in N2N. With home games against 2nd placed Chester and Sedgley Park in 6th, and away trips to Wharfedale (11th), Huddersfield (5th) and Otley (4th), Fylde’s fate is more or less in their own hands.
South Leicester will need a Houdini-like escape to avoid relegation from N2N as they are 15 points adrift of safety. Peterborough Lions are more or less confirmed as relegated and Macclesfield’s position also looks grim.
Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “We’re at the business end of the season and all of our remaining games are against top quality teams. We could easily have taken this game lightly but the lads were extremely professional in their approach building up to the game as well as on the day.
“Henry Hadfield had a great game creating tries for everyone else and some of the support play was excellent to convert our line breaks.
“We now look forward to welcoming Chester in 2 weeks for our penultimate home game. They’re back in form and picked up a big win at Wharfedale so I’m sure it will be a real top quality game!”
FYLDE: 15 Wilkinson; 14 Hadfield, 13 Briers, 12 Fowden (Forster 58), 11 Carleton; 10 Smith, 9 Crampton; 1 Rodd (Lewis 56), 2 Gregory, 3 Ford, 4 Parkinson, 5 Ashcroft (Garrod 58), 6 Vernon (O’Ryan 48), 7 Dugdale, 8 Conner. Non-playing replacement: Loney.