Wharfedale 31 Preston Grasshoppers 21: Hoppers fall short after second-half fightback

A renewed vigour in the second half at Wharfedale failed to gain Preston Grasshoppers the victory they had fought so hard for in the end.
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Wharfedale kicked off in overcast conditions, with a light breeze behind their backs, and saw Preston’s defence take the ball into touch.

The hosts secured their own lineout and, after several phases of possession, Jack Pinder scored an unconverted try for a 5-0 lead after three minutes.

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Hoppers’ return kick went straight into touch, gifting Dale a scrum on halfway which Preston seemed to win but the assistant referee pointed out handling of the ball by the visitors.

Preston Grasshoppers lost against Wharfedale on Saturday (photo: Mike Craig)Preston Grasshoppers lost against Wharfedale on Saturday (photo: Mike Craig)
Preston Grasshoppers lost against Wharfedale on Saturday (photo: Mike Craig)
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Scrappy and error-strewn play was evident for most of the first half, during which Wharfedale broke out several times.

One of those occasions saw Robbie Davidson score on 17 minutes, adding the conversion to make it 12-0.

A penalty try followed just past the half-hour, leaving Hoppers 19-0 behind after an opening period of errors and ill discipline, along with skipper Scott Richardson in the sinbin.

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Richardson came back onto the field after 43 minutes but Wharfedale won the early exchanges of the second half, securing a penalty for failing to roll away from the tackle.

The subsequent kick to the corner developed into a lineout catch and drive, a rolling maul and an unconverted try for Oliver Riddiough.

Sustained possession in attack saw Wharfedale earn another penalty on 49 minutes.

Another kick to the corner led to another catch and drive try, this time by Ben Patchett, with Davidson’s conversion making the score 31-0.

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Wharfedale were not to have things their own way, as Hoppers finally found some self-belief.

Following an injury to Will Hunt, Hoppers switched around their backline with Ed Keohane moving to stand-off.

Renewed confidence led to Wharfedale defending waves of attacks, combined phases and a deft no-look pass from prop Jake Pope going to hand.

Further consistent play on the right wing saw a tap and go penalty lead to a deserved try for Pope on 61 minutes, converted by Keohane.

Despite further errors as a result of the wet conditions, Preston looked confident with Ciaran O’Donnell and Harvey May crossing for converted tries in the last 10 minutes..