Hoppers 17 Tynedale 34
A punctured tyre on the Tynedale team bus delayed the start of their game at Preston Grasshoppers.
But it was the home fans who were left feeling deflated after a seventh home defeat kept their side anchored at the foot of National League Two North.
As in their last game, Hoppers took an early lead. They even led at half-time. But familiar failings crept in and they handed Tynedale a four-try bonus point with time to spare.
“That was one of the toughest games to watch,” said Preston head coach Garth Dew. “We had massive ascendancy in the first 15 minutes and if we’d been a bit sharper, it could have been 15 or 20-0 before halftime.
“But we became very sloppy, gave away two really soft tries and were thoroughly outplayed in the second half. Our personal skill levels were poor, we were losing the ball in contact and missing tackles, we made half-a-dozen costly errors and, once we let them in, we were chasing the game.”
Hoppers made an extraordinary start, shunting the Tynedale pack all over the park four or five times and winning a succession of penalties. That allowed Lewis Allen to give them a 9-0 lead with three successful kicks.
A yellow card for lock Sam Gale as Hoppers scrambled to halt a breakout gave the visitors chance to claim the first try, No.8 Joe Mills crashing over from a tap penalty. Ashley Smith converted, but Allen landed his fourth penalty after hitting the post with another effort.
Hoppers leapt into a 10-point lead when a break by Alex Taylorson ended with Niall Crossley charging over from 15 metres. Allen missed the conversion and poor defending allowed Mills to go clean through from a scrum for an unconverted try to make it 17-12 at the break.
Unlike the first period, Preston started the second badly, conceding a penalty to Smith and a converted try by wing Oliver Walker – after the hosts lost the ball in midfield – in the opening six minutes. So Tynedale led for the first time.
Worse was to come when a needless pass in an attacking position was picked off and flanker Maxwell Davies ran in from over 50 metres, with Smith adding the touchline conversion.
The final nail in Hopper’s coffin was hammered home by substitute Jack Outson whose try went unconverted.