FYLDE 17 SEDGLEY PARK 10
Fylde and Sedgley Park fought out the closest possible Lancashire derby at the Woodlands at the top of National Two (North). A cigarette paper hardly separated them as the game built to an extraordinary climax in the last ten minutes, featuring a heroic Fylde defensive effort.
This was a traditional derby between two squads that knew each other very well, partly through their major, joint contribution to the Lancashire senior squad in the County Championship but also as no fewer than eight players and three of the coaches (Scott Barrow & Jonny Roddam for Sedg, Chris Briers for Fylde) in the two squads have played for both clubs. Although Sedgley might claim with some justification that their 2nd half efforts deserved at least a draw, it was Fylde’s two tries to the visitors’ one that was the ultimate justification for the home victory.
The 1st half began with pressure from Fylde inside the Sedgley half. This was relieved by an important steal at a Fylde lineout by the excellent visiting lock, Bob Birtwell. Fylde struggled somewhat with their lineouts throughout the game but held some advantage in the scrummages with their pack making it difficult for the Sedgley no 8 Tom Ailes who on numerous occasions had to deal with being at the back of a retreating eight.
Fylde opened the scoring in the 11th minute. A penetrative break by fullback Tom Carleton into the heart of the Sedgley defence set up a quick ruck 15m out from the visitors’ line and Scott Rawlings was at first receiver as he ploughed through the remnants of the defence to score near the posts. Greg Smith made the easy conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The game was far from one way as Sedgley fought their way back into the contest. They forced Fylde into conceding a penalty in a kickable position and fly-half Steve Collins went for goal. Unfortunately for him, the ball cannoned off a post and into the grateful arms of lock Ollie Parkinson who secured possession for the home side.
Fylde were enjoying an advantage in territory and possession at this stage and they built on this in the 32nd minute. Winger Tom Grimes made good progress down the left touchline and with one defender to beat chipped the ball over his head. His run was half blocked by the defender and the retreating Sedge defence reached the ball first in the in-goal area. The clearance kick went straight to a Fylde player and the home backs attacked going right. Rawlings turned from scorer to architect with a delightful offload to Tom Carleton 35m out from the Sedgley line and the speedster finished it off with a penetrative sprint to the line. Once again, fly-half Greg Smith added the extras to establish a 14-0 advantage. And so it remained as the half-time whistle blew.
The 2nd half was a rather different story as Sedgley battled back to dominate periods in the game. However, contrarily, in the 45th minute Fylde went further ahead. Tom Carleton made the first incision moving down the right of midfield before feeding winger Tom Roebuck. The Sale Sharks dual registered player broke infield and sprinted around several visiting defenders on a mazy run. 10m out from the Sedgley line, one of their defenders high tackled the England U’20s player and was lucky to avoid a sinbinning. Smith converted the consequential penalty for a 17-0 lead.
Sedgley responded with spirit and energy, and the penalty count began to stack up against the home side. Sedgley pressed deep inside the Fylde half and set up a series of close quarters drives near the try line. The dam had to break and it was Sedgley’s Sale DR prop James Harper who got the touch down near the posts in the 52nd minute. Steve Collins kicked the straightforward conversion to get his side on the scoreboard at 17-7.
A few minutes later there was a critical moment just inside the Fylde half. A high up and under Sedgley kick was knocked on by one of the visitors, picked up by a colleague in an offside position who was then clattered into by Fylde no 8 Jacob Conner. He received his marching orders for the offence and Collins converted the subsequent penalty to get within a converted try of the home side.
Fylde were principally on the back foot but tackled well and managed the game sufficiently well to avoid any further damage whilst Conner was in the sinbin. On his return Fylde mounted some isolated attacks inside the Sedgley half and won a few penalties in critical positions. From one, Greg Smith went for goal but mishit it and the ball went well wide. They earned another shortly afterwards and this time Smith opted for a kick to the right corner. This didn’t work as Sedgley stole the lineout ball and launched a prolonged, steady advance down the pitch. They were willing to run the ball from deep although the Fylde tackling was keen.
Then followed a sustained period of 9½ minutes of intense Sedgley pressure inside the Fylde 22m line. This was fierce hand to hand combat as the visitors fought for an equalising converted try to draw the game. Time and again, their forwards drove towards the try line, time and again the Fylde defence held firm. This resembled Rourke’s Drift as somehow each Sedgley move was countered by iron willed defence.
Play continued deep into injury time as the crowd bit their collective nails in this critical top of the table game. Sedgley managed to retain possession as they went through phase after phase near the Fylde posts. A vital turnover by Alex Loney gave his side a breathing space but the visitors were soon back hammering away on the Fylde line. A marginally forward Sedgley pass ended the game and Fylde celebrated enthusiastically.
This game could easily have gone either way and the two teams were very well matched throughout. Fylde took the four points for the win and Sedgley earned a consolation losing bonus point. Caldy’s big win at Tynedale consolidated their position at the top of National Two (North) and a gap is growing between the top three – Caldy, Fylde & Sedgley Park – and the chasing pack. Fylde are now 15 points ahead of 4th placed Loughborough Students and 18 more than 5th placed Sheffield Tigers, Fylde opponents next Saturday. With the local derby game to follow at Preston Grasshoppers on 21st December, there’s no letting up on the pace of the competition in the division.
Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “I was very pleased at the quality of our defensive performance. The end of the game summed it up. 10 minutes of the ball in play with Sedg having possession in our 22 for the whole of it. To hold them out showed the strength of character and a huge effort to deny them a score – those boys will be unbelievably tired now. We gave away some silly penalties when we were defending but the effort couldn’t be faulted.
“The yellow card didn’t have much effect, for either team. We missed Jacob as he’s a big ball carrier for us but we did OK whilst he was in the bin.
“Tom Carleton got back on the gold standard today. I know he enjoys playing with the talented young players all around him in this squad and he capitalises on this quality. In other clubs he might spend the game chasing kicks, but not here.
Looking forward to the trip to Sheffield Tigers on Saturday,
Spragg added: “We had a tough time at Dore Moor last season. It was snowy and we thought the game might have been called off. We were undercooked in terms of preparation. They’re a good defensive team, physical up front and their pitch can be quite heavy on the legs this time of year. So we’ll have to be very good tactically, and we can’t afford to be defending our 22m line for long periods in the game. We’ll have to kick well, defend well and manage the game well. Another very difficult afternoon to look forward to!”
FYLDE: 15 Carleton; 14 Roebuck (Carpenter 54), 13 Wilkinson, 12 Rawlings (Briers 70), 11 Grimes; 10 Smith, 9 Lanigan; 1 Horner, 2 Gregory, 3 Lewis, 4 Ashcroft, 5 Parkinson, 6 Vernon, 7 O’Ryan (Loney 62), 8 Conner.
Non-playing replacements: Ashcroft, Wild.
SEDGLEY PARK: 15 Simpson; 14 Cheshire, 13 Glasse, 12 Holloway, 11 Harrison; 10 Collins, 9 Openshaw (McShane 68); 1 Rushton (Black 68), 2 Gallagher (Berry 78), 3 Black (Harper 40), 4 Birtwell, 5 James (Powell 39), 6 Goodman, 7 Lees, 8 Ailes.