Huddersfield 32 Fylde 15
Fylde slipped to their biggest defeat of the season when they went down to Huddersfield at a rain soaked Lockwood Park. This hasn’t been a favourite trip for the Lancastrians as they have now lost four games out of five at the ground since first the first meeting of the clubs in 2008. They enjoyed a good 1st half once again despite going in at the break 17-15 down. But despite lots of effort in the 2nd half they were unable to add to their score as the heavens opened and conditions worsened considerably before Huddersfield claimed a clear and decisive victory.
With 3rd place Sedgley Park also losing at Tynedale, Fylde retained their 2nd place in National Two (North) but outstanding leaders Caldy are now 13 points clear with a game in hand and look to be strolling to the championship of the division.
The game started in the most positive way for Fylde as they scored twice in the opening ten minutes. In the 5th minute the visitors pressed deep inside the ‘Field half and from an Adam Lewis pass no 8 David Fairbrother drove over the line in the corner for the opening score. Greg Smith’s conversion attempt was from wide out, into a strong wind, and fell short.
Three minutes later things got even better for the Lancastrians. Their lineout was functioning very effectively and the home side were penalised as a Fylde attack was stopped. A quick tap penalty injected pace into the subsequent attack and a neat grubber kick behind the ‘Field defence was collected by fullback Tom Carleton and he scored with ease, his 15th in another productive season. Once again, the attempted conversion from near the touchline drifted wide but the visitors had a deserved 0-10 lead.
Huddersfield picked up the pace of their game and hit back in the 15th minute. The Fylde defence initially did well to repel the advances of the home side. But from a ‘Field scrummage inside the Fylde 22m line, no 8 and skipper Dicky Piper forced his way over the try line. Centre Will Milner converted well and the deficit had been reduced to 7-10.
Fylde soon returned to the attack. In the 26th minute an excellent break by scrum-half Adam Lanigan was continued by Carleton before he off loaded the ball to Lex Botha who scored a good try in the right corner. Once again, Greg Smith’s attempted conversion into the wind was unsuccessful but the lead was stretched to 7-15.
The visitors had enjoyed a good 30 minutes of positive rugby but in the last five minutes of the 1st half the complexion of the game changed.
Huddersfield worked a long range breakaway between wing Lewis Workman and fullback Tom Hodson and, with the Fylde defence unusually unprepared, the no 15 scored with aplomb. Milner’s conversion took the score to 14-15 but just before the half-time whistle a Fylde offence enabled him to kick a straightforward penalty for ‘Field to take the lead.
Some Fylde supporters had to pinch themselves as to how a good Fylde 40 minutes performance with three excellent tries had ended with the home side in front. But matters didn’t improve for the visitors in the 2nd half, despite having the strong breeze at their backs as their re-start drop out was kicked dead and it was a ‘Field scrummage in centre field.
Play went to and fro for a while with Fylde having their share of possession and territory. They forced a Huddersfield penalty in a kickable position straight on to the posts but decided to kick it to the corner and subsequent lineout rather than going for goal. Unfortunately, the ball was then knocked on and with a ‘Field clearing kick to halfway the chance was gone.
Past the 50th minute mark and following a conceded penalty it was Huddersfield’s turn to attempt the driving maul near the Fylde line. Scrum-half Jack Maplesden sniped around the maul and scored his side’s third try. Against all the odds, Milner converted well from wide out for a 24-15 lead.
By now, the weather conditions had worsened considerably and the pouring rain made creative, attacking rugby by both sides very difficult. From more ‘Field possession inside the Fylde 22m line in the 58th minute, the visitors defended grimly. The pressure told as Will Milner continued his fun afternoon by finishing off with the bonus point try down the left side. He was for once unable to add the extras but the 29-15 lead looked decisive.
As Fylde restarted and got into the Huddersfield half, previous hero Maplesden turned villain as was sinbinned by referee O’Brien. This advantage was soon evened up five minutes later when Fylde prop Elliott Horner joined him in the bin.
In the 72nd minute ‘Field put the final nail in the Lancastrian coffin when Milner converted a straightforward penalty to extend the lead once more. The final drama of the game was an unfortunate injury to Huddersfield centre Elliot Munnelly which halted play for an extended period and forced the players from the pitch whilst he received attention. Everyone was pleased to see him on his feet in the Clubhouse after the match. When the players returned they played out the final minutes with no affect on the scoreline.
Huddersfield deserved their victory and the bonus point win certainly eased their worries towards the bottom of N2N. Fylde used their get of jail card in their last two home games but their luck ran out on this occasion. They will have to ponder the manner of this defeat and re-boot their challenge towards the top of the division ahead of the visit of old friends and rivals Tynedale to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 3pm).
Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “I’m really disappointed to lose, but sometimes you make unusual mistakes and games just end up getting away from you when it seems like you are in control.
“Huddersfield were gritty, outworked us and showed great team spirit, and in bad weather conditions that was enough to win. I know this experience will bring us closer as a group and give us a renewed focus going into the next few games against tough opposition.”
HUDDERSFIELD: 15 Hodson; 14 Stewart (Hinchcliffe 62), 13 Munnelly (Cookland 74), 12 Milner, 11 Workman; 10 Morgan, 9 Maplesden; 1 Thompson, 2 Stapley, 3 Crickmay (Battye 40), 4 Frear, 5 Sharpe, 6 Power, 7 Bradley, 8 Piper.
Non-playing replacements: Watson, Borrowdale.
FYLDE: 15 Carleton; 14 Botha, 13 Wilkinson, 12 Rawlings, 11 Grimes (Briers 56); 10 Smith, 9 Lanigan; 1 Horner (O’Ryan 75), 2 Gregory, 3 Lewis (Ashcroft M 60), 4 Ashcroft N (Garrod 60), 5 Conner, 6 Chapman (Lewis 67), 7 Vernon, 8 Fairbrother.
Non-playing replacement: Stephenson.
Photo courtesy of Sean Wilkinson.