Sedgley Tigers 46 Fylde 26
Fylde took a much changed squad to Sedgley Tigers on Saturday in a pre-season warm up and were well beaten by the impressive National Two (North) club. Despite the defeat, there were some strong performances by a number of young players who made their competitive debuts in the claret and gold.
After losing twelve players from last season’s squad for a variety of reasons, it was always going to be challenging for Head Coach Warren Spragg and his coaches to meld his young squad immediately into an effective combination. They will be encouraged by some aspects of the performance and will have enough food for thought ahead of the visit of Bury St Edmunds to the Woodlands on Saturday for the final competitive preparation ahead of the National One opener against Cambridge at the Woodlands on 2nd September.
Only eight players in Fylde’s 25 man squad were 1st team regulars last season as the coaches gave opportunities to newcomers and local young players to put their hands up for a starting place against Cambridge. The average age of the pack was just 23 years.
Playing into a very strong wind and uphill in the 1st half also posed issues for the visitors. A silky early Fylde attack involved backs and forwards before being stopped yards from the try line by desperate Sedgley defence. But the home side gained control and opened the scoring with a neat try in the left corner. New lock forward Olli Parkinson then went down with an ankle injury and was helped from the pitch to be replaced by Karl Capstick.
With Fylde trying to re-group, a driving Sedgley maul eased over the line with Tom Coe the last man up. A successful conversion gave the home side a 12-0 lead.
Fylde came back into the game most positively and spent 10 minutes inside the Sedgley 20m zone. Desperate defence was punished by the referee with a succession of penalties before his patience ran out and he sin binned a home player. Fylde took full advantage as all action flanker Toby Harrison found a hole in the defence and scored near the posts. Greg Smith converted to reduce the deficit to 7-12.
The Tigers came back strongly and, led by the mercurial fly-half Rob Holloway, asked many questions of the Fylde defence. Holloway stepped his way through some ineffective tackling before setting up Fylde old boy, hooker Danny Maher, who scored under the posts. Sedgley then added a fourth try in the closing minutes of the 1st half to lead by 24-7 at the break.
It was time for some of the Fylde replacements to get their chance as Tom Carleton, Jamie Brookes and James Bailey gave way to Henry Hadfield, George Brookes and Ben Vernon as the visitors had their turn with the advantages of wind and slope. Brookes made an important early contribution with lovely handling down the right which freed up former Kirkham Grammar School team mate Connor Wilkinson to sprint through for an excellent try. Smith converted to reduce the deficit to 14-24.
Fylde were now flying and with quick recycling of the ball inside the Tigers 20m line, debutant lock Harlan Corrie scored an impressive first try for the Club. Smith again added the extras and the gap was down to three points.
Somehow summing up the game, from the restart a Fylde player knocked on and Sedgley broke clear to score in the left corner for a 29-21 lead.
In this see-saw game, Fylde hit back immediately with a powerful break down the left by no 8 Dave Fairbrother who off loaded to winger Tom Grimes and he raced down the touchline to beat the covering defence for a fine try. Greg Smith’s attempted conversion hit the upright but once again the deficit was down to three points.
As Fylde introduced all their 10 replacements, there was inevitable readjustment and Sedge took advantage with three more tries in the final 20 minutes. Injuries to skipper Greg Nicholls and Jamie Brookes held up play before the whistle and a final 46-26 score.
At this stage of the summer, Fylde will welcome back a few players but lose a few others when Bury St Edmunds visit the Woodlands on Saturday. The need for a big squad at National One level has never been clearer.