Preston Grasshoppers 51, Hinckley 17
A 31-point second-half blitz ended Preston Grasshoppers' run of five successive defeats and brought them their first four-try bonus point of the National League Two North season.
“It’s been a difficult period,” admitted head coach Garth Dew, “and half the problem has been handling the pressure.
“But today we kept our composure, stuck to the job and scored some nice tries. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground but we want to carry on playing expansive rugby and we can beat a number of teams if we keep playing like we did today.
“We have worked on our line speed defensively. A couple of sloppy first-half errors kept them in the game, but generally our defence was good today.”
The first half was a ding-dong affair, with Hoppers racing to a 10-0 lead before conceding those two tries and then hitting back in stoppage time to snatch a 20-14 lead at the break.
Fly-half Lewis Allen set them on their way with a second-minute penalty before missing a similar long-range effort. But a break by man-of-the match Billy Woof gave them a lengthy foothold in the Hinckley 22, going close from a series of five-metre scrums and a tap-penalty burst by scrum-half Jack Harrison, before No 8 Luke Proctor barrelled over for his third try of the campaign.
Allen converted but Hinckley were shaken into life and had three line-out drives halted before moving the ball wide, where winger Callum Dacey raced over. Connor Eastgate converted, but Hoppers seized the initiative again, with wingers Connor Trueman and Cameron Robinson both threatening the visitors’ line.
But Preston had to settle for another Allen penalty and were then torn apart by England U-20 squad centre Jacob Umanga for a superb solo try converted by Eastgate.
Hoppers had the last word of the half, however, excellent interpassing between Robinson and Ollie Viney bringing the full-back a try converted by Allen.
Viney made it a double four minutes into the second period, rounding off a fine catch and run by Trueman, with Allen again adding the extras. Allen and Eastgate exchanged penalties and the hosts then had to show their defensive mettle for a lengthy period, before lifting the siege and sealing a deserved victory with three late tries.
A great offload by prop Pete Altham and break by Trueman produced the first for Harrison, on loan from Fylde and praised by Dew for his “feisty” play and the way he “puts himself about”. Then Woof burst over after Hinckley had lost the ball in their own half, and finally replacement lock Chris Roddy rounded off a splendid attack involving himself, fellow lock Matt Garrod and Trueman from inside their own half.
Allen converted all three for a personal haul of 21 points and Hoppers very nearly scored another long-distance try in the last seconds, with Garrod – another loan player praised by Dew for his input into the side – going close after good work by Harrison and replacement back Will Hunt.
With back-rowers Sam Gale and Will Lees also gaining the coach’s plaudits for their work rate, this was a good all-round performance which can only have boosted Hoppers’ confidence as they climb back out of the bottom three.