Hoppers 10 Chester 27
“Embarrassed” was one of the more printable – and least scathing – words used by angry head coach Paul Arnold.
He had just watched his Preston Grasshoppers side slump to a dreadful home defeat which dropped them two places to fourth-from-bottom of National League Two North.
The visitors went in at the break hanging on to a 15-10 lead – and never looked back in a dominant second-half performance.
“We were out-thought all over the park,” said Arnold.
“That was one of the worst second-half performances I have seen. We were shooting ourselves in the foot quite a lot – making half-breaks and throwing it away. We were just poor all over.”
In a game when handling seemed to be at a premium due to the bitter conditions, Chester were much more adept at launching incisive breaks, well led by stand-out centre Shay Owen and scrum-half Josh Morris.
They took the lead after just four minutes as Owen went over for an unconverted try.
A big scrum and a Tyler Spence run brought a penalty for the hosts, knocked over from 40 metres by Nick Gregson, before Hoppers took the lead on 20 minutes when fine inter-passing between Gregson and Sam Stott saw the former go over for a try which he himself converted.
Chester drew level when winger Will du Randt fended off Spence at the corner for another unconverted try.
Hoppers spilled the ball more than once in promising situations and paid the price when Owen’s run was brilliantly halted by Ryan Carlson only for Spence to concede a penalty – and be sin-binned into the bargain – which set up Chester for a third unconverted try, this time from No.8 David Ford.
That inspired Hoppers’ frantic end-of-the-half efforts in a siege of the visitors’ line, but penalty after penalty and scrum after scrum went unrewarded as Chester held out, despite flanker Joseph Kyle receiving a yellow card.
On the restart, chances went begging at both ends but Chester looked the likelier to score.
And, after home full-back Scott Jordan was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on, they clinched the bonus point with a line-out drive and try for hooker Alick Croft. This time, Mark Dixon converted and there was no way back for Hoppers.
Winger Sean Green sealed the win with another unconverted try and all Preston fans had to ponder was an afternoon in which almost all their players performed below par.
Gregson took his side’s man-of-the-match award but contenders were few and far between, despite winger Jacob Browne’s best effort with what little ball he had.