Fylde 12 Hull Ionians 14
Fylde and Hull Ionians are in the bottom three of National One but put on a very closely fought, end-to-end attacking display at the Woodlands. Fylde outscored the visitors in terms of tries, 2 to 1, but three successful penalty kicks by Ionians gave them a precious victory in the relegation stakes. Handling errors and the penalty count against them, especially in the 1st half, undermined Fylde’s industrious and committed performance.
The morning had been very wet following six hours of rain but the Woodlands pitch stood up well in the circumstances and a dry, still afternoon meant the conditions were reasonable. The early exchanges were dominated by Ionians as they retained possession effectively and pushed Fylde back into their half. A Fylde defensive lineout went askew and Ionians pressed hard at the try line.
It wasn’t one way though as a rapid breakout and a kick ahead by fullback Tom Carleton took play 70m downfield. Ionians regained possession and cleared the danger.
Ionians backs then broke from deep and a long grubber kick was taken back over his own line by winger James Bailey. In the 15th minute the visitors’ forwards drove to the line and prop Rikki Stout was awarded the touchdown despite home claims of a double movement. The attempted conversion by fly-half Chris Bell drifted wide but the visitors had a 0-5 lead.
The Fylde forwards were energetic and at least matched the rather bigger visiting pack. They had the advantage in the scrummages, almost throughout the game, with the experienced front row of Adam Lewis, returning player coach Alex Loney and Mark Irving dominating.
Faulty handling by the home side negated some of their attacks but by the end of the first quarter there was overall parity between the two sides.
From a penalty to Fylde in the 23rd minute, Smith kicked to the corner. From the subsequent lineout the home pack set up a driving maul and skipper Adam Lewis was the last man up and claimed the try. Greg Smith was unable to add the extras but the sides were level at 5-5.
By this time rather over punctilious refereeing by Mr Thomas penalised Fylde on numerous occasions. In the 28th minute Chris Bell converted a straightforward penalty from in front of the posts to take the lead. Play continued to flow from end to end but Fylde conceded another penalty in the 40th minute and Bell converted it well from 40m out to extend his side’s lead to 5-11 at half-time.
Fylde earned more than their share of possession and territory in the 2nd half but found it hard to penetrate an obdurate Ionians defence. The Fylde pack upped their work rate in attack and defence as the half progressed. Will Hopwood, moving to no 8 for this game in the absence of David Fairbrother, was prominent with lots of unselfish ball carrying. However, Fylde conceded another penalty in the 60th minute and Bell made his third successful kick to extend the lead to 5-14.
Fylde came back strongly. A smart move down their right featured a incisive break by Tom Burtonwood who was putting in an impressive spell in the unusual position for him of openside flanker. His pass eluded winger Henry Hadfield and the chance was gone.
However, in the 71st minute there was a replay of that move. This time it was centre Connor Wilkinson who made the crucial break from midfield before passing to Chris Briers who shipped it immediately to Hadfield. This time there was no stopping the young Cumbrian who raced down the right touchline before touching down for an excellent try nearer the posts. Greg Smith kicked the conversion and Fylde were right back in the game at 12-14 down with 10 or so minutes to play.
Despite the increasing intensity of their play, Fylde struggled to put sustained pressure back on the visitors’ defence. Other frustrations were encountered when after earning a penalty in their own half, the decision was reversed due to a minor fracas between opposing forwards. Fylde launched a couple of late attacks but they broke down through misplaced passes before the final whistle sounded.
This was ultimately another disappointing afternoon for the home side who have lost a few matches very narrowly. The two squads were well matched and the result could easily have gone either way. However, Hull Ionians will be very grateful for the four league points in their relegation battle.
Assistant Coach Alex Loney said: “My initial reaction is that we will be disappointed by a few try scoring chances we didn’t take. In a tight game that was decided by 2 points, if we had been more accurate then we could have easily been on the other side of the result. The players gave heaps of effort, showed commitment and executed well in periods. However, at this stage of the season, wins are what we want, and we will keep working hard to make it happen.”
FYLDE: 15 Carleton; 14 Hadfield, 13 Briers, 12 Wilkinson, 11 Bailey; 10 Smith, 9 Dolly; 1 Lewis, 2 Loney (Gregory 53), 3 Irving (Richardson 60), 4 Garrod (Ashcroft 60), 5 Parkinson, 6 Corrie (Garrod 78), 7 Burtonwood, 8 Hopwood.
Non-playing replacements: Fowden, Nicholls.