Preston Grasshoppers 34 Wharfedale 41
Preston Grasshoppers’ final fixture of their doomed National League Two North campaign was the season in a nutshell.
They led Wharfedale 17-0 after just 12 minutes and by 34-19 with less than 25 minutes to go, but still contrived to squander a good position yet again for their 25th defeat out of 30.
Departing head coach Garth Dew said: “That was the epitome of why we are where we are. Despite their faultless effort, the lads are low on confidence and, even when we led by three scores, we still looked like the side that was going to throw it away.”
With a number of players again missing, Dew praised those who stepped up from the second team, but admitted that some of the squad “looked out on their feet.”
Wharfedale are by no means among the best sides in the league – this was their first away success for a year and a half – and made almost as many basic bloopers as their hosts in an entertaining but error-riddled end to the season. But they stuck to their task to take five points from the game, while Hoppers picked up four-try and losing bonus points. But that still left them 11 points adrift at the foot of the table.
It all started promisingly – as so often this term – and well-taken tries by Niall Crossley and Matt Gargett, both converted by Lewis Allen, who also kicked a penalty, banked that early lead.
The Dalesmen hit back with tries by Jamie Guy and Joe Altham, with Tom Barrett landing one conversion.
Allen kicked a second penalty but Wharfedale made it 20-19 on the stroke of half-time when they broke out of defence and the influential Barrett was first to his own kick ahead for a touchdown which he also converted.
Hoppers prop Oga Mabaya claimed what his coach called “the try of the season” when he was remarkably up in support of a break by Crossley and Jack Akrigg to sprint 20 metres to the line. Allen converted and did likewise after a try of his own which rounded off a length-of-the-field move. That took his tally for the campaign to 242 points.
But the game blew up in the hosts’ face with three tries in 10 minutes by prop Adam Howard, former Hoppers winger Scott Jordan and centre James Tinknell, with Barrett converting two and adding the icing on the cake with a late penalty.
Dew signed off his three-year stint by saying: “I am proud of having coached this club. The last third of the season has shown signs that we are getting there.
“The players will learn a lot from this season and mature. Half-a-dozen new senior players will stand them in good stead in Three North next season.”