Preston Grasshoppers 26 Billingham 22: Hoppers secure a second straight home win

Preston Grasshoppers pocketed a second successive home win – but it could hardly have been achieved in a more different way to the previous week’s romp against Huddersfield.
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Hoppers had to battle all the way before Will Hunt’s two late penalties saw off Billingham’s dogged challenge.

After a game of 38 penalties, Hoppers’ director of rugby Alex Keay said: “It was hard to get any continuity and play the game we want to play, but we have got to keep playing that game and get enjoyment and success out of it.

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“There’s a good vibe and a good feel but we have got to get fitter to keep playing that game.

Preston Grasshoppers secured a narrow win against Billingham (photo: Mick Craig)Preston Grasshoppers secured a narrow win against Billingham (photo: Mick Craig)
Preston Grasshoppers secured a narrow win against Billingham (photo: Mick Craig)
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“Billingham are still fighting for their lives and it was pleasing to see us digging in at the end. We stuck to it and never panicked.

“We coughed the ball up too much and we’re trying too much to force the pass, so that gave them the oxygen to stay in the game, but we are making progress.”

Hoppers started well but a break ended in a penalty to the visitors, who made their way downfield with Sam Heron kicking a penalty.

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Will Hunt quickly replied with a penalty before Hoppers went ahead on 18 minutes when Tyler Spence’s break ended with a converted try for Izaak Gosling.

A chaotic spell saw Hoppers waste a chance when a penalty saw Hunt send the ball dead rather than winning a lineout in the corner.

Joe Harrison’s fine break was squandered before Billingham headed to the other end and forced the hosts into a spell of desperate defence, which ended with Harvey May sinbinned.

Billingham instantly capItalised on the extra man to put Matt Kirkby over for a converted try to make it 17-10 at half-time.

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The visitors spilled the restart kick-off, Gosling and Jack Lightowler leading a race downfield which saw Scott Richardson force his way over as Hunt converted and then kicked a penalty.

The seesaw continued with Billingham’s Mike Walton forcing his way over, only to suffer a leg injury in the process and be stretchered off.

Another Hunt penalty gave Hoppers the lead before another in stoppage time closed out the victory, although they had to resist a last-ditch attack in which Billingham wasted an overlap and lost a lineout.