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Home > News > Preston Grasshoppers 20 - Fylde 27
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Your News Preston Grasshoppers 20 - Fylde 27
20
MAR

An injury time try by the outstanding and versatile Mike Waywell extended Fylde's winning sequence to 12 league games in National Two (North) in the most dramatic fashion. 'Hoppers had enjoyed the majority of possession and territory in the 2nd half and had clawed their way back to 20-all by the 69th minute. With most Fylde supporters happy to take a share of the spoils in an evenly fought though fierce contest, the visitors launched one last attack down their left. The ball reached Waywell 40m out and he cut through the Hoppers defence once more and, ignoring colleagues on his outside, made the try line with a couple of tacklers hanging on. Fylde fly-half Steve Collins kicked the conversion well and Fylde had sneaked a bonus point win to maintain their vice-like hold on the top place in National Two (North).

At kick-off, Fylde supporters looked hard at their team's unfamiliar backline. Two scrum-halves, Craig Aikman and 19 years old Callum McShane, were on the wings, Jack Ward who has missed most of the season through injury was at centre and Mike Waywell at full-back. Waywell had made his debut as a replacement for England Counties against Irish Clubs in Dublin just 20 hours earlier and had flown back for this derby game along with his skipper Sam Beaumont who was 'rested' amongst the replacements. The loss of Oliver Brennand and Richard Kenyon through injury and the unavailability of Nick Royle (with England 7s) and Jason Robinson, had preoccupied the Fylde coaches in the build up to the game. But they had confidence in their extended squad players and this was well demonstrated by the end of the game.

If the ending of this fiercely contested game was dramatic, the opening few minutes were special too. Preston started in a predictably revved up mood and after only 2 minutes a delightful, inch perfect cross field kick by fly-half Mark Edwards was caught very well on the full wide out by winger Matt Hughes who had acres of space to score a try. Edwards' attempted conversion fell short but his side had a 5-0 lead.

Fylde took only a couple of minutes to mount a response. Flanker Steve McGinnis has been unavailable in recent weeks due to his school teaching duties but he made up for it by bursting through the Hoppers defensive line 40m out from their line. He drew the last defender before shipping the ball to fellow backrow forward Mark Stephenson who raced in from 25m for the try in the corner. Collins converted well from near the touchline and Fylde had a 7-5 advantage.

On 13 minutes another Fylde attack down their left saw swift passing along their backline to Waywell. The stand-in fullback broke through a rather weak tackle and powerfully strode over the line for his first try of the afternoon. Collins missed the conversion but his side had a 12-5 lead.

Three minutes later a Fylde forward was penalised and Mark Edwards struck a straightforward penalty against his old club to reduce the deficit to 8-12.

In a crucial development in the 30th minute, referee Phil Davies yellow carded Fylde prop Tom Lavelle for an offence at a ruck. A minute later Fylde lock Nick King received the same treatment following an incident at a line-out. Surely Preston's 15 men would punish this indiscipline and take the lead. With a mix of terrific defensive tackling by Fylde and some very one dimensional Hoppers play, the visitors managed to keep their line intact. Indeed, when Fylde launched an attack down their right only a misplaced pass prevented centre Jack Ward being being set free to score in the corner. As both yellow carded players returned to the action just before the break, Fylde could breath a huge sigh of relief as they trotted off at the interval still leading by 12-8.

Hoppers started the 2nd half with vigour and retained possession very well. In the 50th minute, Fylde attacked down their right but the ball was spilled and winger Hughes made rapid progress along the touchline through a desperate Fylde defence. A superb covering tackle by flanker Grant Ferguson looked like it had saved the day but the ball ran loose and fly-half Edwards followed up to hack the ball over the Fylde goal line and dropped on it for the try. Edwards missed the conversion but Hoppers had a 13-12 lead.

Fylde's mantra this season has been to attack and keep the ball in hand at all possible times. In that vein, they have often spurned kickable penalties to go for quick, continuous play. When Hoppers committed an offence 40m out from their line after 52 minutes, a more pragmatic decision saw Collins kick a good penalty from 35m to retake the lead at 15-13. This was only Fylde's 18th successful penalty kick in 24 league games to date this season.

Three minutes later it was the turn of referee Davies to lose patience with Preston in the tackle area as he yellow carded flanker Richard Morton. Unlike Preston just before half-time, Fylde exploited their numerical advantage almost immediately. Within a minute the visitors gave themselves some elbow room when they attacked down their left. Waywell broke free and drew the final defender before setting free stand-in 19 years old winger Callum McShane who squeezed into the corner for his first senior try. Collins couldn't manage the conversion from the touchline but Fylde had a 20-13 lead.

At this stage, Hoppers took control of the match and pressed deep in the Fylde half. After a series of attacks near the Fylde line, on 69 minutes no 8 Dominic Moon drove over for a short range try. Mark Edwards had been injured earlier in the half so centre Russell Flynn took over goal kicking responsibilities and he nervelessly kicked the conversion to level the scores at 20-all.

As the final whistle neared, Fylde launched one last attack and Waywell secured the crucial bonus point score. A draw would have been a fair result to a well contested though error prone derby. But fortune favours the brave and Fylde's greater attacking ambition and solid defence eventually shaded the game despite long periods of Hoppers dominance of territory and possession. A losing bonus point was the least that the home side deserved.

This was Fylde's 12th successive victory and they have six more games, four of which are at home, in which to harvest the 19 points that will ensure the club wins its first ever league championship title.

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