Fylde 1st XVs and 2nds, the Hawks, both had useful pre-season run outs at Kirkby Lonsdale’s scenic Underley Park on Saturday. The feature game ended in a 7-48 win for the Lancastrians against the North Premier club. The 2nd team match was abandoned at half time following a serious injury to a KL player. The Hawks were leading by 5-15 at that time.
The purpose of such matches is to shake off the cobwebs of the close season and try out the lessons being learnt at training. Bringing new players into the tactical and team environment is also a crucial element. Fylde’s eight tries were evidence of a productive training build-up to the new National Two (North) league campaign which opens up at the Woodlands against Otley on Saturday, September 1st.
If the Fylde squad were a little rusty it certainly didn’t show in the opening 12 minutes as they blitzed the home team with four tries. Centre Ralph Dowds sustained a serious knee injury in the 2016-17 campaign and after surgery missed all of last season. In the 1st minute he was back in the limelight as he scored the opening try, converted by fly-half Greg Smith.
South African-born wing/centre Lex Botha has joined the Club whilst waiting to see if his application for a UK visa is successful. Whilst he’s unable to play in the National Leagues until he has a visa, he’s being given a chance to show his paces in the pre-season games. In the 3rd minute he finished off a smart move with his debut try.
In the 8th minute centre Connor Wilkinson picked up a loose ball in midfield, ran at the KL defence, chipped over the top and won the race to the touchdown. Smith added the extras for a 0-19 scoreline.
Kirkby Lonsdale then had a period of pressure inside the Fylde half but were unable to turn pressure into points thanks to a stern defence by the visitors. Fylde battled down the pitch and in the 12th minute no 8 David Fairbrother drove over the line for his side’s 4th try.
Back came KL but fine Fylde tackling snuffed out the threat. In the 28th minute the visitors were back in the KL half and it was Wilkinson’s turn to set up a try for a team mate as he offloaded neatly to lock Matt Garrod who scored easily. Greg Smith’s conversion extended the Fylde lead to 0-31.
Fylde relaxed in the final ten minutes of the half and KL took due advantage when they caught the visitors defence asleep. KL took a quick tap penalty and drove over the line for their opening score and a half-time position of 7-31.
Both teams made changes at the interval so as to give game time to as many members of their squads as possible. Initially it didn’t seem to make any significant difference as Lex Botha picked up his 2nd try a minute in to the 2nd period.
Play became rather disjointed, particularly from Fylde. KL came back into the match strongly with a 20 minute period of pressure in the Fylde half. They were unable to break down the visitors defence and in the 69th minute Fylde extended their lead when fullback Tom Carleton skipped through a gap for a well taken try. By this time, goal kicking responsibilities had been passed to replacement Tom Forster, back at the Club after a three season spell at Preston Grasshoppers. He hadn’t quite got his distances sorted out and his conversion attempt was charged down by an onrushing KL player.
The final score was a try by Fylde’s most experienced player, Chris Briers, who had come on as a 2nd half replacement. Forster added the extras for a final score of 7-48.
Fylde’s Chairman of Rugby Roger Banks paid tribute to the performances of the new players. “I was impressed by scrum-half Cameron Crampton, prop Elliot Horner and the two Sale Sharks Academy players, youngsters Sam Dugdale in the backrow and Cal Ford at prop. And Lex Botha looked very sharp as well as picking up two tries.
“It was a useful hit out and the squad looked strong. I was especially pleased to see the quality of the defence when we were under pressure for quite long periods in the 2nd half.”
Many thanks to everyone at Kirkby Lonsdale RUFC for their hospitality, and best wishes for a successful season.[Photo courtesy of Sean Wilkinson]