Preston Grasshoppers 9 Ampthill & District 57
It was backs to the wall for Preston Grasshoppers against table-toppers Ampthill and District, who notched the first of their nine tries in the opening minute at Lightfoot Green.
An early penalty gave them a line-out deep in Hoppers territory and, though their first thrusts were repelled, a big gap appeared close to the posts for flanker Joseph Bercis to drive over.
Joseph Tarrant converted, as he was to do on five other occasions as the visitors from Bedforshire kept the scoreboard moving on a regular basis.
The action was not all one-way traffic but Hoppers’ best efforts foundered on some solid defence and avoidable errors.
“We have to be pragmatic,” said head coach Garth Dew. “It’s the first time we’ve been really tested and at times we showed a lack of understanding of what we are trying to do.
“We have to go back to basics. There was some bad decision-making at key times.
“We have a lot of young lads and, when the pressure starts building, they lack a bit of nous and experience – we kick the ball away needlessly, try to off-load at the wrong times and lose the ball in the tackle. It’s important not to get too downhearted. Ampthill have some very experienced quality players and were more organised than us.”
First-half tries came at regular intervals for Ampthill, with two for winger Michael di Ponio and one each for hooker Villami Ma’asi and centre Brendan Burke, punctuated by three penalties for Hoppers winger Lewis Allen, who also went closest to a home try when he was held at the corner in the second half.
So it was 31-9 at the break and the visitors were soon increasing their lead, with a penalty try, followed by Di Panio’s hat-trick touchdown.
There were further five-pointers from flanker Bradley Scharff and replacement Kieran Duffin, the latter while Hoppers replacement prop Andrew Irvine was in the sin-bin.
Hoppers’ many permutations off the bench could do little to stem the tide, despite the heroic work of back-rowers Jack Walker, Will Lees and Andy Napier – lauded by Dew as “one of the stand-out players” on his return after a lengthy injury.
It was testament to the home side’s never-say-die spirit that, in the closing minutes, they finally managed to drive mighty lock Paino Hehea back in the tackle after he had proved a powerful handful all game.
At this early stage of the campaign, Ampthill look nailed-on for a second successive promotion, having already racked up 238 points in five games.
As for Preston, there will be a long hard look at the match video at training this week when they meet for another major challenge, a trip to third-placed Sedgley Park on Saturday.
Fylde eventually overcame Loughborough Students by 43-25 at the Woodlands
Head coach Mark Nelson said: “Any game against a team desperate for a win is always going to be challenging.
“I thought that we played with real ambition from all areas of the field and our commitment to play and attacking game was self evident.”
After two successive defeats, Vale of Lune returned to winning ways with a four try victory 29-20 over Bolton to move them into third place in North One West.