Hoppers will need a miracle to beat drop

Sam Gale opened the scoring for Hoppers
Sam Gale opened the scoring for Hoppers
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Preston Grasshoppers 15 Stourbridge 26

Hoppers’ dismal season went from bad to worse when they squandered a lead with five minutes to go, then compounded the folly by throwing away even a losing bonus point.

Despite an encouraging first half, this was another performance littered with basic errors.

Preston head coach Garth Dew said: “We didn’t identify our opportunities and have to address our discipline and decision-making.

“Stourbridge upped the tempo off the bench while we ran out of steam.”

The mistakes started early, with Ryan Glynn’s first box kick going straight out of play. The scrum-half subsequently kept tormenting Stourbridge with tricky Garryowens, but it was a tactic which backfired in the last quarter, when Hoppers should have been sitting on their one-point lead rather than encouraging the visitors to run the ball back at them.

Preston did score first, Sam Gale crashing over from close range after Rhodri Mayor had gone close, and Lewis Allen converted. But as so often this season, the opposition was allowed to hit straight back, flanker Billy Harding rampaging through to send winger Joe Bridger over for a try converted by Chris Scott.

llen restored the lead on half-time with a penalty after winger Dan Rundle had been yellow-carded for a high tackle.

After the break, Stourbridge took the lead for the first time when flanker Nigel Mukarati crashed over. Substitute Luke White knocked over the conversion but, when Preston put together a good spell of handling, Chris Roddy was on hand to claim an unconverted try.

White missed a couple of penalties but the hosts seemed determined to keep them in the game with more unforced errors.

The ploy to kick long finally came back to bite Preston as Stourbridge ran the ball back strongly from a clearance and centre Nathan Tilsley brushed off several tacklers for a try which White converted in controversial circumstances.

Hoppers still had chance to hang on to the bonus point, but it was the visitors who grabbed one of their own through a last-minute fourth try by lock Chris Depper, and with four games left, Hoppers remain rooted at the foot of National Two North and need a miracle to survive.