Tigers show their teeth as Fylde fade away

Fylde 12 Sedgley Park Tigers 28: report by Simon Taylor

Fylde’s home campaign ended in disappointing fashion as they fell to their fourth successive defeat in this North West derby. Whilst it was always going to be a tough ask to arrest their own end of season slide down the table and bring a halt to a rampant Sedgley Tigers seven match winning streak the manner of the defeat was the disappointing aspect. Despite a more than equal share of possession, a penalty count of twelve to seven in Fylde’s favour and Sedgley incurring two yellow cards Fylde were unable to wrestle any initiative as they were noticeably flat and seemed to be lacking in urgency, energy and confidence. Only two late tries when Sedgley started to make changes prevented Fylde from being nilled at home and in truth the final score was somewhat flattering to the home team.

Sedgley kicked off away from the clubhouse and things started badly straight away as Ben Vernon knocked on and suffered a heavy knock in contact with the ground leading to a lengthy delay as he was treated. He was able to continue but the knock did seem to affect his usual robust level of performance. Fylde did monopolise possession in the first 10 minutes with a free kick and two penalties but found the Sedgley defence a tough nut to crack as multiple phases led to little ground gained. Sedgley earned their first penalty in the 11th minute and showed they did have the tools to prise open the home defence as they battered the home line till it gave way with centre Oliver Glasse forcing his way over. Stand off Steve Collins converted and it was 7-0 to the away team.

Fylde made their first meaningful break in the 16th minute as Tom Carleton scythed through the defensive line. It looked like the pass was on to Henry Hadfield in space but Carleton chose to take the contact. The ball was recycled and Fylde old-boy Danny Maher flung out an arm in the tackle catching the Fylde player high. The referee produced a yellow card and Fylde now had a man advantage and their fourth penalty. They set up the 5-yard line out but two phases later were held up in the tackle after the maul was called and the Tigers were able to clear their lines.

Fylde continued to win good possession but struggled to make any decisive headway against an always-fierce Tigers defence. The Tigers patiently soaked up what was thrown at them and when they had the ball they looked sharp and decisive as they were guided around the pitch by their excellent half back duo of scrum half Callum McShane and stand off Steve Collins, both of whom used to ply their trade at the Woodlands and Collins being the second former Fylde number 10 to come back to torment Fylde this season. He moved play from side to side and brought players through on the crash or the scissors to mix play up and probe for openings. He always had willing and muscular runners, none more so than centre Matt ‘The Truck’ Riley, a club stalwart with over 350 appearances. In the 23rd minute Riley made a powerful surge through midfield and it took three goes to bring him down. Quick ball meant the Fylde defence was struggling to re-align and Collins deftly chipped over the top. Winger Richard Lepori won the race to the bouncing ball, gathered and went over for the second score, again converted by Collins, and despite being a man down The Tigers were 14-0 in front.

Sedgley knocked on the re-start but they made a right mess of the Fylde eight at the scrum to win the penalty and then a further one when Collins was high tackled. His 40-yard kick at goal crashed back off the upright and Fylde came back with a good break by Hadfield leading to a penalty and a line out 10 yards from the Sedgley line. Good ball gave scrum half Gus Warr the chance to go for the line but he lost the ball in the two man tackle and Sedgley again cleared their lines to bring the first half to a close.

Fylde would have been hoping to start the second half in more positive fashion and knew they really needed the next score. Sedgley were in no mood to be charitable and controlled the ball from the kick -off making the hard yards until Ben Black crashed over, Collins converting for 21-0. Sedgley knocked on at the re-start and gave away another scrum penalty allowing Fylde to set up yet another 5-yard line out but a further knock on prevented pressure from being built. Fylde were awarded the next two penalties and once again set up the 5-yard line out but this time the throw in was deemed not straight. To make matters worse Sedgley were not even forced to earn the right to exit their danger zone as someone spoke out of turn to the referee and they were given the easy way out with a penalty kick.

Fylde looked strangely subdued and their body language suggested they were out of sorts with themselves. Another knock on followed and coach Warren Spragg decided it was time to make changes bringing James Torkington and Cameron Crampton on for Harlan Corrie and Gus Warr. Torkington certainly showed an appetite for hard work as he threw himself into the tackle area and ball carrying duties with intent and Crampton looked to get some urgency and direction into Fylde’s attack. Unfortunately, errors continued and the next two penalties went against Fylde as they continued to struggle to truly test the Tigers defence in any concerted manner. Ewan Ashman and Elliott Horner came on for Ben Gregory and Bevan Rodd but were soon facing a 5-yard scrum after a Sedgley catch and drive was held up over the line. The scrum was unstoppable as it shoved Fylde over the line and replacement Hallam Chapman touched down for the bonus point try, a fourth Collins conversion making it 28-0.

Sedgley now realized the game looked safe and made changes and their intensity and shape dropped slightly. Ewan Ashman timed his counter-ruck superbly to force a turnover and several phases later Sam Dugdale forced his way over the try line to finally get Fylde on the board and make it 28-5 with the conversion missed. Bevan Rodd came back on for Ben Vernon who finally called it a day after his early injury and Tom Forster replaced Tom Carleton with Connor Wilkinson moving to full back. Sedgley gave away two penalties allowing Fylde possession in the opposition red zone and after a good drive by Dugdale the ball was spun out to Ewan Ashman who had an unopposed stroll in with as it looked like the away defence thought a stoppage was coming and they switched off for the only time in the whole match. Greg Smith converted and it was 28-12.

Sedgley now seemed content to see the game out and take the 5 points back down the motorway. Tom Forster made a nice break but his chip ahead option was easily dealt with and a forward pass meant an overlap opportunity went begging as Fylde’s struggles for fluency continued. In the 77th minute Steve Collins was rather harshly yellow carded as he was adjudged to have delayed Fylde taking a quick penalty when it seemed the ball had just got tangled up in his feet. A last tap and go penalty led to nothing as Sedgley were able to hold the man up in the tackle and force a scrum. In keeping with the rest of the day Fylde engaged early at that scrum giving Sedgley the free kick and an easy out and they controlled the ball for the last few minutes and kicked into touch and the agony of a rather painful day was over for Fylde.

It was undoubtedly a bad day at the office for Fylde and their run of form when compared to the run Sedgley are on shows just how differently teams play when full of or low on confidence and energy levels. It is a shame and must have been frustrating for the players and the coaching staff to end their home campaign in such fashion. For a season to fizzle out when the young squad has done remarkably well since week 9 and at one point put them selves in serious play-off contention right up until the home defeat to Chester is tough to take, however, the success they have achieved should not be tarnished too much by the last four results. With one match left away at Otley there is every incentive to beat a team who themselves are on a four match losing streak. If Fylde take nothing from the last match, Otley take a full 5 points and Preston Grasshoppers take at least one in their last game at home to Chester then Fylde could end up finishing ninth and below Hoppers. Coach Spragg will look to use that to focus his squad to produce one last performance worthy of the way they have played for the majority of the season and end their campaign in style and in at least sixth place or better.

Click here for Chris Farrow’s match photos.

Teams:

Fylde: 15 T. Carleton, 14 H. Hadfield, 13 R. Dowds, 12 C. Wilkinson, 11 T. Grimes, 10 G. Smith, 9 G. Warr, 8 J. Conner, 7 S. Dugdale, 6 B. Vernon, 5 N. Ashcroft, 4 H. Corrie, 3 A. Lewis (Captain), 2 B. Gregory, 1 B. Rodd

Replacements: E. Horner, J. Torkington, E. Ashman, C. Crampton, T. Forster

Sedgley Park: 15 A. Riley, 14 S. Lowthion, 13 O. Glasse, 12 M. Riley, 11 R. Lepori, 10 S. Collins, 9 C. McShane, 8 M. Goodman, 7 M. Skofic, 6 W. Lees, 5 J. Lloyd, 4 R. Birtwell, 3 B. Black, 2 D. Maher, 1 M. Ashcroft

Replacements: N. Rushton, T. Coe, H. Chapman, C. Wilkinson, C. James.

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