Fylde 27 Sale FC 29 – match report by Elliot Burrow
The sun was out and shining at The Woodlands on Saturday as Fylde, in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd, rounded off their pre-season with a narrow 27-29 loss to Sale FC.
Fylde were playing their second pre-season game at home after beating rivals Preston Grasshoppers 38-19 in their opener, and it was yet another chance for head coaches Alex Loney and Chris Briers to put the finishing touches to the squad before the league campaign gets underway on the 4th September.
It was the first time the two clubs had met at first team level since 1996, and the visitors came into the game off the back of a mixed pre-season so far, after having beaten Rotherham Titans 61-12 in their opener before losing one and winning one against Sedgley Park.
Sale are playing in the National League Division One this season, which is one higher than Fylde who are in the Division Two North league, but for 80 minutes it was hard to tell that there was an difference at all between the two, as the game went right down to the wire in front of a packed out crowd.
Despite the Red Arrows soaring overhead before kick-off, it was the visitors who got off to a flying start when they crossed for the first try of the game on seven minutes. Their maul was brought down by Fylde lock Matt Garrod, who was also sin-binned for his efforts, and a penalty try was then awarded giving Sale an early 7-0 lead.
The home side hit back instantly though with Sale losing a player of their own to the sin-bin for a high tackle. Centre Connor Wilkinson broke through the Sale defence with a delightful side-step to score under the posts, and Greg Smith converted to level the scores up.
Sale continued to dominate the line-out and pressurise the early scrums, but it was Fylde who scored again next after a Sale attack broke down and nobody got anywhere Tom Carleton, as he picked up the pieces to run the rest of the pitch to score.
Smith converted again to push his side into 14-7 lead, and he added a penalty goal on 21 minutes to extend their advantage to 17-7.
Back came Sale though, and they crossed for their second try of the afternoon when James Robbins made an excellent break up the middle and flew past Carleton at full-back to cross.
It was Fylde who had the last say of the half however, when the brilliant Wilkinson broke through the line again, and passed to the supporting scrum-half Matt Sturgess who walked it over the line to score.
Smith was left with another easy conversion in front of the sticks and it meant at half-time Fylde had the lead over their higher league opposition with the score 24-14 in their favour.
The first-half was an excellent performance from Fylde, who managed to hold off Sale and turn defence into attacks with some brilliant counter attacking play at the breakdown with their backrow prominent.
They knew though that Sale weren’t going to go away easily and, if they wanted to make it a perfect two from two in their pre-season, then another disciplined 40 minutes had to follow.
Smith got Fylde off to a good start after the half-time break, converting a penalty to increase the home side’s lead, but the visitors responded with the first try of the half on 52 minutes, when captain Andrew Hughes scored from close range after a quick penalty tap to reduce Fylde’s lead to eight.
Fylde were continuing to put pressure on the Sale defence, but they were made to pay for a loose pass out wide when fullback Jack Metcalf intercepted and ran the full length of the pitch to score for the away team.
Former Fylde player Johnson managed to convert to bring his side back within a point, and when he slotted over a penalty goal with seven minutes to play to put his side into a 29-27 lead, it meant Fylde needed something special if they wanted to comeback now.
They almost got it as well after a brilliant break from inside their own half looked as though they were going to go all the way to the line, before an enveloping cover tackle from a Sale defender halted their progress. From the resulting play they gave away a penalty for being off their feet at the ruck.
It looked as though their chance might’ve gone begging, but Fylde were finishing the game off strongly, and captain Ben Gregory made another good break up the middle before Sale’s cover defence again got them out of trouble and managed to win them another penalty at the breakdown.
In the end they couldn’t find a way through, and it meant that Sale had held on to run out 29-27 winners at full-time.
There was plenty of positives for Fylde to take out of the game though, with Connor Wilkinson having a great game in the centre, and the fact they managed to take a team that are a division above them this season all the way gave the coaches plenty to work with ahead of their season opener which is now just around the corner.
Click here for Chris Farrow’s photos: https://bit.ly/2WyuZuo
|Tom CARLETON||15||Jack METCALF|
|Henry HADFIELD||14||Tom BRADY|
|Connor WILKINSON||13||James ROBBINS|
|Scott RAWLINGS||12||Ben IVORY|
|Scott JORDAN||11||Nev EDWARDS|
|Greg SMITH||10||Chris JOHNSON|
|Matt STURGESS||9||Matt BRADLEY|
|Sam KYLE-CLAY||1||Dan BIRCHALL|
|Ben GREGORY (c )||2||Josh BROWN|
|Corey BOWKER||3||Joe KELLY|
|Olli PARKINSON||4||Seb CECIL|
|Matt GARROD||5||Nick GRAY|
|Marcus BLAKE||6||Andrew HUGHES (c )|
|Phill MILLS||7||Jordan TEBBATT|
|David FAIRBROTHER||8||Stone PRIESTLEY NANGLE|
|Pan STYLIANOU||16||Ollie LONGMORE|
|Zach BARROW||17||Declan PROWSE|
|Matt ASHCROFT||18||John NORTON|
|Charlie PARTINGTON||19||Jake BARRON|
|Ben O’RYAN||20||Seb PEMBERTON|
|Tane BENTLEY||21||Luke COX|
|Adam LANIGAN||22||Callum MORRIS|
|Tom FORSTER||23||Tom WALSH|
|Ben TURNER||24||Chris OWEN|