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Hoppers are held

Driving forward: Wayne Steel helped Hoppers claim a draw

Driving forward: Wayne Steel helped Hoppers claim a draw

Luctonians 20 Preston Grasshoppers 20

A slightly different script this week as Hoppers came from behind to draw a fiercely contested game which could have gone either way right up to the final whistle.

It was very much a classic encounter of backs versus forwards and the slippery surface favoured the hosts’ experienced, heavyweight pack.

Director of Rugby, Gareth Dyer, summed it up: “Our forwards were very much on the back foot in the tight although we competed well in the loose. But we moved the ball well and competed for the full 80 minutes. Our discipline could have been better, especially when under pressure in the first quarter, and it is something we need to work on.”

Hoppers started well and Karl Fitzpatrick’s chip through almost put Sean Taylor through but the full- back slipped when gathering the ball. Lost possession and a penalty resulting in a five-metre lineout after eight minutes then allowed Lucs to play their trump card as prop Marfell was driven over for a five-point lead.

More of the same followed and, after 10 minutes of sustained pressure, flanker Smith got the touchdown and this time the kick was good.

Although under severe pressure in the tight, Hoppers’ pack managed to win some possession.

First Ali Murray stole a lineout and a Fitzpatrick break produced a run for Dominic Moon, then Wayne Steel broke from a lineout to put Sam Kindred away.

But the scrum half’s scoring pass inside was deliberately knocked on by a defender and referee Edmunds kept his cards in his pocket and ignored pleas for a penalty try.

However, a tap and go by Richard Morton from the resulting penalty and quick recycled ball put Adam Birchall in at the corner to make it 12-5 at the break.

Now with the breeze, slope and sun at their back, Hoppers were soon on the attack from the restart and Fitzpatrick created space in midfield to put Phil Baines in at the posts and Taylor’s conversion tied the scores.

Lucs regained the lead with a penalty in the 57th minute but Hoppers replied straight away when Fitzpatrick’s kick trough was scrambled over the line by Taylor who missed the conversion but added a penalty three minutes later as the hosts started to infringe under pressure to put his side 5 points clear.

The home pack had the last word with a strong finish which led to a second try for Smith, again from a forward drive, but some sterling defence from Hoppers repelled further attacks to secure the draw.

Two sides above lost, so Hoppers move up two places to third in the table.

 

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