STOURBRIDGE 12 FYLDE 64
Fylde have rediscovered their collective mojo as they have run up 114 points in their last two National Two (North) league games. They gave an extraordinary 1st half display at Stourbridge to build a 0-45 lead after 40 minutes. With devastating combinations of forwards and backs, Fylde eviscerated the home defence, scoring seven tries in the process before the break.
The 2nd half was more even, with Stour battling hard and Fylde ringing the personnel changes. Nevertheless, they scored another three tries whilst conceding two consolation efforts by the home team. This was the highest number of points scored by Fylde since April 2011 in their promotion year. Elsewhere, Sedgley Park lost heavily at Hinckley, Fylde’s next opponents, so Fylde’s 2nd place in N2N is a little more secure.
Fylde opened the exchanges with gusto and immediate success. The firmness of Stour’s 4G artificial pitch suited the Fylde attacking, running style of play and they used this to the maximum advantage. In the 5th minute Fylde pressed inside the home 22m line and centre Connor Wilkinson neatly offloaded to prop Elliot Horner who burst through to score under the posts. Greg Smith added the straightforward conversion for an early lead.
A couple of minutes later, a shrewd infield kick by Smith pushed Stour back to their own 22m line and from Fylde’s lineout the ball was moved crisply through their backs until lock Nick Ashcroft broke through the defence to score near the posts. Once more, Greg Smith’s conversion was routine and his side had a 0-14 advantage.
Fylde’s fast and furious assaults continued and in the 16th minute in another attack, Scott Rawlings ploughed into the home defence. When it was re-cycled, lock Matt Garrod gave a smart inside pass to scrum-half Adam Lanigan who burst clear through a gap to score under the posts. Smith added the conversion.
In the 19th minute winger Tom Carleton raced clear but was caught by the league’s top try scorer Dan Rundle. However, he offloaded the ball to Connor Wilkinson who scored Fylde’s fourth and bonus point earning try. Smith missed the subsequent conversion but at 0-26 the visitors were building an unbeatable lead.
From the Stour re-start kick, the visitors launched another attack and it resulted in another try, Connor Wilkinson’s 2nd of the afternoon, under the posts. Smith’s kick extended the advantage even further.
Stourbridge then had a period of pressure deep inside the Fylde half. A couple of penalties set the platform for an series of drives towards the Fylde line but the visitors’ defence held out before earning their own penalty and clearing to mid-way.
Normality was resumed in the 37th minute when from another slashing Fylde attack Wilkinson collected his hat trick try. Smith kicked the conversion for a 0-40 lead. Two minutes later on the half-time whistle, Tom Grimes applied the perfect coda to a scintillating half of rugby when he scored wide out. Greg Smith’s attempted conversion was wide but as the teams left the field it was clear that the crowd had witnessed a 40 minute dismantling of the Stourbridge defence.
In-charge coach for the day, Alex Loney, made some changes in personnel at the break but it had little immediate effect on the mayhem being perpetrated by the visitors. Two minutes in, Fylde extended the lead with a try by flanker Phill Mills, his first since he returned to the Club just before Christmas, a score that brought up the half century. Smith’s kick took Fylde even further ahead at 0-52.
But this wasn’t the end of it. In the 48th minute a brilliant piece of individualism by hooker Ben Gregory extended the lead further. Fylde attacked in midfield and went left and Gregory raced clear 50m down the touchline to score in the corner. Smith’s kick was excellent and Fylde had extended their lead to 0-59.
Stourbridge had pride at stake and established a measure of control of the game with a period of pressure inside the Fylde half. The leading try scorer in N2N, Dan Rundle, doesn’t need many opportunities to exploit chances, not least when opponents miss tackles. He scored in the 54th minute and once again in the 61st as Fylde took their foot off the gas. One was converted for a 12-59 scoreline.
However, Fylde deservedly had the last laugh when they scored their 10th try through replacement flanker Ben Vernon in the 67th minute. The game meandered to its close but not before Tom Grimes was sinbinned in the 79th minute for a high tackle after a gutsy though ultimately unsuccessful period of Stourbridge pressure.
The Fylde party travelled home in high spirits after their best display of the season, and their eighth victory away from the Woodlands to date.
Assistant Coach Alex Loney said: “First and foremost, I was very pleased how the players backed up a good performance from last week. We were fully aware that Stourbridge had threats across the board with some serious physicality and skill to move the ball towards the pace that they have in their team.
“In saying this, the Fylde players deserve plenty of praise for the performance. We got on top physically for large periods of the game in terms of ball carrying, and this enabled us to create offload opportunities to break the line. From there, we were clinical and managed to finish off our chances.
“Generally, I was happy with the set piece, although the scrum was a bit messy at times, and our defence was solid. We had good work rate throughout the match and an example of this was the way we had players supporting our attacks. Having a loosehead, scrum half and full back all take final passes to score shows how all our players want to impact a game.
“I said to the players before and after the game, we seem full of energy and confidence at the minute. Warren Spragg is doing a great job making sure the detail is there week to week at training and the squad are working hard to keep improving.
“Looking ahead, we have a another serious challenge this week against Hinckley, who are arguably one of the form teams in the league at the moment. It should be compelling viewing this Saturday, so get down to the Woodlands and support the Fylde boys!
Perhaps a final comment from a diehard Stourbridge supporter on social media: “Fylde were ridiculously good in the first half.”
[Photos courtesy of Ian Garrod and Sean Wilkinson]
STOURBRIDGE: 15 Heatley, Dunn, Morgan G, Morgan A (Wilson 9th), Rundle; Scott, Ham; Thorp, Lea (Clements 41), Thorne (Bartlett 41), Perks (Collingham 43), Murphy (Perks 73), Griffiths, Rodley, Mukarati (Lea 69). Non-playing replacement: Pritchard.
FYLDE: 15 Wilkinson (Grimes 62); 14 Carleton (Botha 41), 13 Briers, 12 Rawlings, 11 Grimes(Vernon 41); 10 Smith, 9 Lanigan; 1 Horner (Ashcroft M 57), 2 Gregory, 3 Lewis, 4 Ashcroft N (Garrod 62), 5 Garrod (Conner 55), 6 Chapman, 7 Mills, 8 Fairbrother. Non-playing replacement: Stephenson.