Rampant Hoppers up to second place

James Fitzpatrick for Hoppers in their game against Birkenhead Park
James Fitzpatrick for Hoppers in their game against Birkenhead Park
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Preston Grasshoppers 60 Birkenhead Park 14

It says something about the attitude of this Preston Grasshoppers team that, after a 10-try demolition of Birkenhead Park, head coach Paul Arnold was able to admit: “There was quite a lot of disappointment at the end because we felt we left a few points out there.”

The win moved Hoppers up to second in the Premier North League and extended their unbeaten run to four games.

They had claimed the four-try bonus point inside three minutes of the second half, and that launched a purple patch in which they racked up four touchdowns in eight minutes.

A slight loss of concentration gifted Park with two converted tries – with half-time replacement Arnold accepting responsibility for a couple of missed tackles – but they then closed out the match with three more tries without reply.

The Hoppers scrum was again a powerful force, allowing forwards such as Ally Murray, Matt Lamprey and Sam Gale the space to put in some barnstorming runs.

There was also some heroic try-line defence when Park battered away for further scores – and Hoppers were even able to turn such situations into devastating counter-attacks as they twice robbed Park on their line and launched length-of-the field tries which had Arnold praising their vision and confidence.

Niall Crosley was first on the scoresheet after Preston stole Park’s scrum ball and gave the winger a clear overlap thanks to good work by mJames Fitzpatrick, Will Hunt and Sam Stott.

Successive line-out takes by Murray brought tries for lock Chris Roddy and Gale to put the hosts 19-0 up at the break, with two Hunt conversions.

Then came that early second-half try blitz, with full-back Scott Jordan, Hunt, skipper Paul Millea and winger Connor Trueman all rounding off flowing moves in which Lamprey and Murray particularly made major contributions. Hunt converted two and Hoppers were 43-0 to the good.

A dodgy five minutes for the hosts saw Park cut the deficit with touchdowns by prop Peter Doolan and winger Beef Jardine, both converted by Dave Hall.

But Hoppers got their game back on track in the last 20 minutes, with Gale and Crossley both scoring their second tries – Crossley’s a solo effort from his own in-goal area.

Hunt started a counter from similar distance in the final play of the game and Ollie Trippier finished it off at the other end, for Hunt to add the final conversion.

Hoppers now turn their attention to two big “derbies” to come, against Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale.