Preston Grasshoppers banked a rare four-try bonus point following a destructive pack performance against struggling Broadstreet.
Although none of the forwards appeared on the scoresheet, they certainly laid down the foundations for a fourth successive home win which extended their unbeaten run in National League Two North to six games, including two draws.
Head coach Garth Dew, who sat this game out, said: “I was pleased the get five points. It all stemmed from a really dominant pack – I’ve never seen a scrum annihilated like that.
“Once we weathered the first 10 minutes, we were always in control.
“The intensity was up at training this week and the side know they have to play hard because there are some good lads waiting for their chance.”
Although he was slightly critical of Hoppers’ defence – “we were a bit passive compared to recent weeks” – there was plenty of praise for the “big hits” from all three back-rowers, Will Lees, Andy Napier and especially Ally Murray, who had “a big game physically”.
But the bulk of the plaudits again went to the powerful starting front row of Pete Altham, Alan Holmes and, in particular, John Peterson, who collected the man-of-the-match award in only his second game after a long lay-off.
The backs, too, played their part, with Alex Zavallis-Roebuck credited with lifting the intensity of the side when he took over at fly-half and full-back Sean Taylor bagging a personal haul of 21 points to take him beyond 180 for the season.
Hoppers started on the back foot, with a couple of errors allowing Broadstreet to camp in the hosts’ 22 for 15 minutes and gain a one-man advantage when lock Reece Tomlinson was yellow-carded after a line-out.
Preston defended valiantly but were finally breached when Broadstreet spun the ball wide for winger Aaron Martin to get over for an unconverted try.
But Hoppers were already turning the screw at the scrum and Taylor landed one of two penalty attempts in quick succession, produced by the power of the pack.
He then gave his side a 10-5 halftime lead after they won a scrum against the head in their own 22, saw the Broadstreet defence make a hash of covering a kick ahead and benefitted from a kindly bounce for Taylor to go over and convert his own touchdown.
Hoppers quickly extended their lead after the break, with winger Lewis Allen showing a clean pair of heels in little space on the touchline to race in from 40 metres, with Taylor again converting.
Fly-half Lee Chapman replied with a long-range penalty which just crept over the bar, but two tries in six minutes sealed the win and brought Hoppers the bonus point. Scrum-half Harry Moulding grabbed the first, thanks to another massive scrum shove by his forwards close to the line, then good play by Allen kept the ball alive after a loose pass, allowing him to put Taylor in for his second try.
The full-back converted both, sparking a bit of an attacking revival by Broastreet, but it was too little, too late.
Preston replacement prop Oga Mabaya was yellow-carded as Broadstreet laid siege to the line and prop Jake Dodd did get over for an unconverted try, but, after a dominant first 15 minutes, the disappointing Midlanders were always second best in a contest mostly played out in extreme wintry conditions.