Sheffield Tigers 17 Fylde 12
Fylde wasted a fine opportunity to close up on the two leading clubs in National Two (North) when they went down by 17-12 at Sheffield Tigers after dominating long stretches of the game at a snow-bound Dore Moor Ground. Fylde’s chance of getting in to the top two was gilt edged as both the leaders, Hull Ionians, and 2nd placed Chester, also lost away from home. The defeat for Fylde broke a sequence of nine matches unbeaten.
A layer of snow had fallen overnight on the Dore Moor Ground, high on the south west edge of Sheffield. Fortunately, the surface underneath was not overly frozen and by loyal volunteers clearing the lines during the morning then the pitch was fit for the game to go ahead.
Fylde began the game in the most purposeful fashion. In the 2nd minute they forced the Tigers into conceding a penalty and N2N’s leading scorer Greg Smith opted to go for goal. The kick drifted wide on a difficult kicking day given the underfoot conditions.
Fylde continued to press forward and in the 10th minute won another penalty at a scrummage. This time Greg Smith kicked for the corner and from the lineout set up a rolling maul. As it rumbled towards the line, flanker Sam Dugdale broke off the side and plunged over. Smith converted well and the visitors were 0-7 ahead.
The Tigers earned a last minute 24-25 victory between the clubs at the Woodlands in September through the immaculate kicking of their fly-half Mark Ireland who kicked six penalties and a conversion for a personal haul of 20 points. In the 14th minute this time, the Sheffield pack were awarded a penalty at a scrummage and Ireland kicked for goal to reduce the deficit to 3-7.
Fylde were soon back in charge, dominating possession and territory. They were continually thwarted by heroic Tigers defence. It looked only a matter of time before the visitors extended their lead. Greg Smith had a kickable opportunity from another penalty conceded by the Tigers but his attempt went wide.
Fylde were then hit by a sucker punch a minute before half-time when they conceded a penalty in their own half. Ireland kicked for the corner and it was the home pack’s turn to set up a driving maul. Skipper Ed Simmons drove over to claim the try and Ireland converted for a 10-7 half-time lead.
Early in the 2nd half, a box kick by Fylde scrum-half Gus Warr was caught by fullback Pete Swatkins and he skated through some fallible Fylde tackling to race upfield. As he was chased down, he picked out former Fylde mini-junior, colt & 1st team centre, Tom Hart, who finished off the move under the posts. Ireland converted and the Tigers saw clear water with a 17-7 lead.
Fylde picked up the pace of the game and were soon back pressing inside the Tigers half. Their efforts were continually frustrated by fierce Sheffield defence and their own decision-making. In the 60th minute their cause was helped by Tigers lock Ashley Holland being sinbinned. Despite the extra player, Fylde still couldn’t fine a way through.
Not until the 77th minute did Fylde find a way through. They forced the Tigers into conceding a string of penalties inside their 22m line. From a lineout a driving maul ended with skipper Adam Lewis powering over for the try. Greg Smith missed the conversion.
There was insufficient time for Fylde to score again but, given the overall Fylde domination of the game, a losing bonus point will be scant consolation. The Tigers performance was fierce and committed and they pulled off a double victory in the first ever games between the two clubs. The conditions were a leveller and didn’t suit Fylde’s running game but, of course, they were the same for both teams. Fylde slipped a position to 4th in National Two (North) as Huddersfield, the only one of the top four clubs to win, clamber over them. Once again, its apparent that the promotion race is very open, with teams throughout the division able to beat anyone else on a good day.
Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “We missed an opportunity to move level with Chester and close the gap on Hull Ionians today, and that’s incredibly frustrating! We played most of the game inside the Sheffield Tigers 22 but just couldn’t get across the line. We’ll have a look at our decision making this week and see what we can learn and take forward into the Tynedale game. They took us apart early in the season so we need to get ourselves prepared for another big test.”
FYLDE: 15 Carleton; 14 Hadfield (Bailey 75), 13 Dowds (Botha 71), 12 Wilkinson, 11 Grimes; 10 Smith, 9 Warr; 1 Rodd (Ford 66), 2 Gregory (Loney 66), 3 Lewis, 4 Garrod, 5 Ashcroft, 6 O’Ryan, 7 Dugdale, 8 Conner. Non-playing replacement: Harlan Corrie.