Chester 15 Fylde 51
Their yo-yo form continues apace. Fylde are the Jekyll & Hyde team of National Two (North) and, after their home defeat by Hinckley a week ago, they put in an outstanding 2nd half performance at Chester to score five tries and 34 points in 40 minutes. This blitzed the home side and in doing so inflicted their biggest margin of defeat of the season.
Fylde have now run up 182 points in their last four matches despite losing one of them. This season has seen a series of excellent away performances with Chester being the 9th victory in 12 fixtures away from the Woodlands. They have especially enjoyed playing on 4G artificial surfaces at Preston Grasshoppers, Stourbridge and at Chester – 143 points scored in all in these games. The severe grazing suffered to his leg by Connor Wilkinson shows the downside of such surfaces.
However, 4G pitches suit Fylde’s style of attacking play but in windy conditions at Hare Lane they rather stuttered in the 1st half. They started well in the 7th minute when a Chester lineout 10m out from their line went wrong and Fylde skipper Adam Lewis was the beneficiary as he pouched the loose ball and drove over for his 3rd try of the season. Fly-half Greg Smith added the extras for a 0-7 lead.
Chester hit back quickly following pressure inside the Fylde half. In the 11th minute the Chester backs attacked wide and a clever ball put winger Max Himbury through a gap and he scored. Fly-half Dan Pemberton missed the conversion.
Although the team worked hard, Fylde’s execution was not quite on the button and errors reduced their normal attacking potency. “Nearly there but not quite” as one observer commented. But in the 20th minute they put it all together when, from a scrum on the Chester 22m line, the ball was moved left along the backline with Scott Rawlings and Connor Wilkinson combining to make space for winger Tom Grimes to touch down in the corner. Smith’s attempted conversion was wide but his side had a 5-12 lead.
The weather worsened as the advance guard of Storm Ciara took hold, and a mix of sun, rain and strengthening winds blessed Hare Lane. Chester were trying to run the ball at every opportunity and they pressurised Fylde into conceding penalties. On the half hour, no 10 Pemberton converted one to reduce the deficit to 8-12.
On the stroke of half-time, Fylde scored a very important try which put some distance between the teams. From a lineout 15m from the Chester try line, lock Olli Parkinson won the ball cleanly and an unstoppable driving maul splintered the home defence. Hooker Ben Gregory was last up and claimed the try. Greg Smith was unable to add the extra two points but Fylde went into the changing rooms with a 8-17 lead.
The 2nd half was to prove very different. Throughout the season, the Lancastrians have had purple patches when they appear quite irresistible. The 2nd 40 minutes would illustrate this beautifully. In the 46th minute from a scrummage deep in their own half, no 8 David Fairbrother made a superb break downfield on the left side of the pitch. Flanker Ben Vernon kept up with him and receiving a pass made 40m to outpace the Chester defence to score in the left corner and in so doing picked up a 4 try bonus point for his side.
Three minutes later centre Connor Wilkinson made a typical, devastating break down the middle of the pitch to score near the posts. Smith’s conversion took the score to 8-29 and Fylde were striding clear.
It was Chester’s turn to dominate possession and territory for a short while and in the 59th minute they scored a neat try down their right by centre Sean Green. Dan Pemberton kicked the conversion and Chester were back in the contest within two converted tries of their opponents.
Greg Smith put a little more distance between the two sides by converting a penalty in the 66th minute before a glorious final ten minutes blitzed the home side. In the 68th minute a clever chip put fullback Tom Carleton in space to score his 21st try of the season, converted by Smith for a 15-39 lead.
The mayhem continued a couple of minutes later when Connor Wilkinson chipped neatly behind the Chester defence and winger Lex Botha collected to score a good try.
Five minutes later an unstoppable Fylde maul ended with, unusually, centre Scott Rawlings in the centre of it and he was last man up. Greg Smith converted to break the 50 points barrier. He had earlier kicked his way past the 200 points mark for the season.
Head Coach Warren Spragg tweeted after the match “Didn’t expect that 2nd half! Great impact from the bench & desire to score tries.”
Speaking after the game he said “We responded to the loss against Hinckley in the best way possible. We worked hard to go into half time in front and then put in a great 2nd half to rack up 50 points. It means we can look now forward to welcoming Caldy on Saturday with the challenge of being the team to break their unbeaten run.”
Fylde now look ahead to the visit of the outstanding Caldy squad to the Woodlands for a 2nds v 1sts contest on Saturday (ko 3pm). Without the distraction of a 6 Nations weekend, it’s to be hoped that the Fylde Coast rugby community come out in force to support their team in what should be a classic battle – they deserve nothing less as they push for a top two finish to the season.
CHESTER: 15 Dixon; 14 Himbury, 13 Green, 12 Foden, 11 Vare; 10 Pemberton, 9 Holloway (Craven 55); 1 Campbell, 2 Robson (Croft 53), 3 Reed (Williams 31, Reed 53), 4 Wilkinson (Gregory 65), 5 Joseph, 6 Jones (Charmley 55), 7 Baxter, 8 Ford.
FYLDE: 15 Carleton; 14 Botha, 13 Wilkinson, 12 Rawlings, 11 Grimes; 10 Smith, 9 Lanigan; 1 Horner (Ashcroft M 53), 2 Gregory (Stephenson 68), 3 Lewis (Horner 70), 4 Parkinson (Ashcroft N 50), 5 Conner, 6 Vernon, 7 Mills, 8 Fairbrother (Chapman 58).
Non-playing replacement: Briers.