Fylde moved to join Hull Ionians at the top of National Two North with a clear 38 points to 7 victory at Peterborough Lions. This was Fylde’s first ever visit to the Lions ground and their longest trip of the season. With all bar two matches in N2N lost to the weather, Fylde had a chance to close the gap on the leading two clubs on a pitch that was initially in good condition but became heavy as the frost melted.
Fylde exercised their overall superiority on the day, scoring five tries in the process, but only after a gritty performance by the home side who made the Lancastrians fight hard for their bonus point win.
In seven of Fylde’s previous league games this season, Tom Carleton has grabbed his side’s first try. It’s as if their opponents are initially unaware of the danger that this talented and talismanic player poses. It was more of the same at Solstice Park for it took only two minutes for the 21 year old to give the Lancastrians the lead. Fylde opened the game by pressing inside the Lions half and Carleton finished the move off in emphatic style. Fly-half Greg Smith kicked the conversion for a 0-7 lead.
Fylde had most of the possession in the early stages of the game and pressure on the Lions pack paid off in the 14th minute when the home side conceded a penalty in their half. Smith converted it well to extend Fylde’s lead.
More of the same pressure led to the next score in the 20th minute. Sam Dugdale, starting at no 8 in the injury absence of Jacob Conner, drove powerfully to Peterborough’s line and touched down near the posts. Once again, Greg Smith added the extras for a 0-17 lead.
Fylde suffered a setback in the 25th minute when Carleton was forced off with an injury and a reshuffle brought on Henry Hadfield to the left wing and Tom Grimes dropping back to fullback. A minute later the Lions’ fly-half Ben Young was sinbinned. As Fylde came to terms with a realignment of their backs, they were unable to take advantage of the extra player.
In the 33rd minute Fylde flanker Ben Gregory and Lions replacement Martin Lewis were both shown yellow cards by referee Owen Taylor. Half-time arrived with Fylde maintaining their 0-17 advantage.
The 2nd half began in the same fashion as most of the 1st period with Fylde in control. Their Head Coach Warren Spragg, perhaps mindful both of the necessity of giving game time to some players and of the load on the Sale Sharks dual registered players, replaced England U’20s squad member Gus Warr with Cameron Crampton at scrum-half.
In the 43rd minute Fylde extended their lead when the Lions coughed up the ball in midfield and the visitors exploited this remorselessly when Crampton broke down the blindside before freeing Connor Wilkinson to finish off near the posts. Once again Greg Smith kicked the conversion, for a 0-24 lead.
With both Gregory and Lewis back in the action, in the 46th minute Fylde replaced Sam Dugdale and centre Ralph Dowds with Harlan Corrie and James Bailey respectively.
The game became a midfield battle on an increasingly heavy pitch and in the 70th minute the Lions got on the scoreboard with a try by centre Shaquille Meyers, converted by Ben Young. This was a reward for some hard work as they controlled and recycled the ball effectively.
Fylde were still striving for a bonus point try as the game entered the last ten minutes. Their hard work and focus paid off in the 76th minute as Connor Wilkinson scored his 2nd try, his 12th of another productive season for the talented centre. Greg Smith added the extras to extend Fylde’s lead to 7-31.
The fly-half added the gilt to the gingerbread in the last minute when he stepped through the Lions defence to score a deserved try. His conversion gave him a match haul of 18 points and in doing so cemented his place as the leading points scorer in National Two (North). Smith has struck a golden vein of kicking form this season, regularly achieving a success rate of over 80%. A perfect goal kicking display at Peterborough makes the point about his accuracy, on some occasions under serious pressure in the context of the matches.
Fylde’s five league points take them to join Hull Ionians at the top of the N2N on 73 points but they are ranked 2nd on the number of matches won.
Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “We needed to get five points out of the game and the players delivered. This now puts pressure on the other teams around us when they have to catch up with their postponed games. I think we would have had about ten players unavailable if we had to play on the next free weekend so it’s a good job our game was on!
“I thought the lads did really well to stick to our guns and move the ball around on a very heavy pitch, and keep their composure when we still needed the bonus point try going into the final 10 minutes.
“We now move on and look forward to a big game next week against Hinckley who are a high quality side and we will need to be at the top of our game to get a win. Hopefully, we’ll have Jacob Conner, Chris Briers and Elliot Horner fit and available to come in and challenge for places in the squad next weekend.”