Hoppers progress to Final with narrow win over Fylde

By April 1, 2013Match Reports, Uncategorized

Fylde 24 Preston Grasshoppers 25

Preston Grasshoppers, holders of the Lancashire Cup, took the bragging rights with a narrow win at the Woodlands on another cold, dry day. Fylde started the match brightly and took the game to Hoppers but on seven minutes Preston’s first foray deep into Fylde territory lead to a penalty. Preston's lively full-back Sean Taylor, who's rather strange kicking style belies its effectiveness, duly slotted it for a 3-0 lead.

This stung Fylde into action and some effective forward play lead to a Fylde lineout deep in the Hoppers 22. Hoppers lost flanker Will Keenan to a yellow card for not retreating 10m from the penalty mark. Not for the first time in the game, the lineout was a bit of a mess but the home side somehow retained possession and drove powerfully towards and over the whitewash with hooker Tom Burtonwood last man up. Chris Johnson converted for a 7-3 advantage. The restart pushed deep in Fylde half and from the resultant forward battle a penalty was awarded against the home side. Rather like the earlier sinbinning, a yellow card was shown to a Fylde forward for not retreating the necessary distance.

Hoppers made the numbers count and quickly contrived, with some help from inept first up tackling, fly-half Lewis Allen made the break and lock Alex Austin scored near the posts. Taylor converted for a 10-7 lead.

The Fylde pack was at least holding its own against their opposite numbers but the Alistair Murray & Will Keenan were prominent Hoppers. Fylde's no 8 Harrison Collins was having an outstanding game all over the pitch and wasn't put in the shade by the highly experienced Dominic Moon.

A Hoppers penalty in short order stretched the visitors' lead to 13-7. With the playing numbers back to parity, Fylde poured forward in waves and with their trademark offloading game winger Curtis Strong powerfully muscled his way over the line in the left corner for the second try. Up strode Chris Johnson and he slotted over a superb conversion from the touchline to give his side the narrowest of leads, 14-13.

That was to be the final action of the first half that Fylde shaded but with the benefit of a strong and cold breeze behind them. The 2nd half against the wind was likely to be a struggle for the scratch Fylde line-up. And so it proved.

However, the first score of the half was to Fylde when from broken play 30m out, Harrison Collins broke clear, sidestepped defenders and outpaced the cover for a superb try under the posts. Johnson converted for a 21-13 lead.

Hoppers hit back with a sniping try from scrum-half Sam Kindred. Taylor converted once more and the deficit was down to 20-21.

Johnson increased this with a fine penalty from 40m before Hoppers took control of the game. They set up a number of phases before sucking in the Fylde defence and moving the ball right. A good pass from Taylor set winger Matt Hughes free to score in the corner against his old club. Whilst the attempted conversion went well wide, Hoppers had a crucial 25-24 lead.

Fylde threw on club skipper Evan Stewart & Roger Banks but it was very late for them to have much of an influence on the game. But Fylde did make a very late attempt to rescue the tie but even when they gained good field position with a penalty kick to the Hoppers 22m line, the subsequent Fylde line-out once again was snaffled by the excellent visiting locks and the chance was gone.

Hoppers held out and were deserved winners in the light of their 2nd half performance. They progress to the Final of the competition.

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