Preston Grasshoppers 24, Sheffield 26: Late conversion agony denies Grasshoppers a share of spoils

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Preston Grasshoppers secured two vital bonus points with the last play of a tense game to move them up one place to 10th in National League Two North. (writes Paul Outhwaite)

Will Hunt could not land the touchline conversion of Tyler Spence’s eighth try of the season to claim the draw, against a strong Sheffield team which is third in the table.

Hoppers lost line-out after line-out – many in strong attacking positions – and, despite some excellent goal-line defence, fell off too many one-on-one tackles in open play.

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They made an excellent start, aided by a succession of penalties, and Spence’s quick thinking to take a tap penalty got Jacob Browne over for an unconverted try.

Match action from Preston Grasshopper's narrow loss to Sheffield (photo: Mike Craig)Match action from Preston Grasshopper's narrow loss to Sheffield (photo: Mike Craig)
Match action from Preston Grasshopper's narrow loss to Sheffield (photo: Mike Craig)

Sheffield scrum-half Elliot Fisher was a thorn in the hosts’ side all afternoon and got their first points with a close-range try, after strong pressure on the line, which he also converted.

Another tap penalty led to Hoppers’ second try, scored from centimetres out by Rory Brand and converted by Hunt.

But the visitors responded to claim a 14-12 half-time lead thanks to a breakaway try finished off by winger Christian Hooper, with Fisher adding the conversion.

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Another line-out malfunction early in the second half saw Sheffield go the length of the field for Fisher’s second converted try, but Hoppers again used their tap-penalty ploy to good effect for a score by Ben Dorrington, converted by Hunt.

Debutant Frank Chatterton was on the field for only a few minutes before going off with a serious-looking arm injury, but Hoppers went from defence to attack after yet another tap penalty, with Spence halted just short of the line.

However, Sheffield counter-attacked brilliantly and their No.8 Ryan Burrows got their bonus-point try for a 26-19 lead.

Hoppers refused to yield, though, and four minutes into stoppage time, Spence latched onto Hunt’s kick and squeezed over at the corner, leaving everyone holding their breath for the fly-half’s, sadly unsuccessful, conversion attempt.

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