Preston Grasshoppers 20 Caldy 39
Following an all-too-familiar pattern so far this season, Preston Grasshoppers found that a traumatic first quarter left them with too big a mountain to climb as they slumped to a third successive defeat.
Fifteen points behind in 20 minutes, they fought back to level the game early in the second half but made far too many mistakes to offer a lasting threat to a Caldy side which capitalised on every error.
Hoppers head coach Garth Dew said: “We did show glimpses of an improvement on last week’s performance, and when we kept out composure, we looked dangerous.
“But this was nowhere near an 80-minute performance.
“We scored two nice tries and were buzzing at half-time. But when we tried to go wide, we were guilty of poor execution and then we started panicking.
“Caldy were more direct and carried harder but we played too much in the wrong areas and turned over too much ball.
“We were sloppy as ball carriers, gave Harry Moulding messy ball from the rucks and we also need to be fitter. “
Hoppers got off to their usual poor start, with Caldy centre Jack Lavin kicking an early penalty.
To compound the error, Preston put the ball straight out at the restart and, while the home side was trooping back to face the expected scrum on halfway, the visitors caught them napping with a perfectly legal quick throw-in to give predatory finisher Nick Royle a comfortable gallop to the line.
Lavin missed the conversion, but made no mistake after combining with fly-half Rhys Hayes for the second try.
Hoppers had been starved of possession to this point, but fought their way back into the game when they did get their hands on the ball.
A knock-on spoiled one promising move but a break by winger Alex Zavallis-Roebuck, a couple of penalties and a series of forward thrusts ended with centre Sam Russell going over for an unconverted try.
There were two more near misses, with faulty handling again letting the hosts down, before the pack heaved Caldy back for a pushover try claimed by busy No.8 Luke Proctor.
Lewis Allen’s conversion made it 15-12 at the break, and the fly-half levelled matters five minutes later with a 40-metre penalty.
Lavin soon responded in kind but Preston’s encouraging spell continued, with winger Charlie Hough held up over the line and full-back Oliver Viney getting to within five metres before being robbed.
But yet another unforced Hoppers error provided a major turning points, as a poor pass brought a Caldy breakaway from their own half, rounded off by Royle, who completed his hat-trick just a couple of minutes later.
Lavin converted both to take his side 17 points clear and, although Hough gave his side hope with an unconverted try after a line-out and slick passing, Caldy had the last word against 14 men after prop Pete Altham had been sinbinned in the closing minutes.
Lavin touched down after a line-out drive and converted, to deny Hoppers any late hopes of losing bonus points and keep them in National League Two North’s bottom three, with successive away games to come.