Hull Ionians 34 Fylde 22
Fylde have often struggled at Hull Ionians’ impressive Brantingham Park ground. On a lovely, sunny day for rugby, it was to be another disappointing result for them this time, their fourth successive defeat to the Yorkshiremen.
However, the afternoon started in the best possible way when Fylde raced out of the blocks and opened the scoring in the 2nd minute. Returning centre Ralph Dowds made a lovely break through the Ionians midfield and his partner Connor Wilkinson was on his shoulder to take the pass and score near the posts. This was Wilkinson’s 14th try in a very productive season for the talented centre. Fly-half Greg Smith added the conversion.
Ionians’ skipper, fullback Lewis Minikin punished a Fylde indiscretion in the 6th minute with a good penalty kick, and doubled this in the 14th to reduce the deficit to 6-7. He was to have a very productive afternoon. Smith replied with a penalty of his own in the 24th minute to keep Fylde clear at 6-10.
Ionians ratcheted up the pressure and on the half-hour took a lead they were never to relinquish. They won a lineout near the Fylde line and no 8 Ed Falkingham took the ball cleanly to set up the driving maul. This was decisive and hooker Ben Stephenson was the last man up to claim the try. Minikin converted well from near the touchline and Ionians were 13-10 in front at the interval.
The third quarter was a fierce battle for supremacy between two well matched sides. Fylde indiscipline wasn’t helping their cause and scrum-half Gus Warr saw yellow for a remark to the referee in the 54th minute. With the visitors having to reorganise in consequence, a flurry of activity on the hour brought two scores. In the 57th minute from more pressure from the Ionians forwards on the Fylde line the ball was smuggled to winger Toni Kuku who powered over for the try from short range. Minikin’s conversion gave his side a 20-10 lead.
A couple of minutes later, still down to 14 players, Fylde hit back through the usually dependable pace and trickery of fullback Tom Carleton. The ever dangerous young talent combined with his former Kirkham Grammar mate Wilkinson to score a beautiful try, his 17th of the season. Carleton started the move from well in his own half, exchanged passes with Wilkinson and raced straight through the middle of the Ionians defence to score under the posts. Smith’s conversion put his side right back in the mix at just 20-17 in arrears.
Alas, Fylde’s push for the lead came to nothing as Ionians took advantage of some fallible defending by the visitors. In the 70th minute, as Ionians pressed inside the Fylde half, a missed tackle let in replacement Adam Brown who dummied his way to score under the posts. Minikin converted once again to put serious daylight between the teams at 27-17.
Fylde fought their way back downfield and were denied by a try saving tackle by Ionians centre James Tincknell. Then, a clearance kick into the Fylde half led to a tricky bounce of the ball which deceived Tom Carleton and fullback Minikin was the beneficiary scoring under the posts. He converted his own try for a personal haul of 19 points.
Fylde heads didn’t drop and they scored a consolation last minute try when winger Tom Grimes finished off a neat move out wide. Greg Smith was unable to add the conversion and the game ended with Ionians winning by 34-22, a slightly flattering score but a deserved victory.
Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “We knew Ionians would be dangerous after we took top spot last week, so we would’ve had to be on top of our game to beat them. We created enough chances to get the win but unfortunately we didn’t finish well enough after making a lot of line breaks out wide.
“I can’t fault the effort of the lads and we don’t need to overreact. We just need to prepare well for our remaining fixtures and play with the belief and desire that we have shown for the past few months. I’m sure this run in will have a few more twists and turns before the end of the season and hopefully we can sneak our way back into contention.”
The snakes and ladders of National Two (North) continue, with Fylde slipping from 1st to 4th and Ionians regaining the leadership of the division. Huddersfield lurk dangerously in 3rd place but just a point behind the leaders, with a home game in hand and seven successive victories behind them. They look favourites to top the division come the end of April. But there’s plenty of time for late drama in this very well competed league.
FYLDE: 15 Carleton; 14 Hadfield (Botha 40), 13 Dowds, 12 Wilkinson, 11 Grimes; 10 Smith, 9 Warr (Crampton 68); 1 Rodd, 2 Gregory, 3 Lewis (Ford 68), 4 Ashcroft, 5 Garrod, 6 O’Ryan, 7 Dugdale, 8 Vernon (Corrie 74). Non-playing replacement: Horner.
[Photos courtesy of Ian Garrod]