Preston Grasshoppers 47 Fylde 42
Preston Grasshoppers became the inaugural winners of the Brendan Hanavan Trophy after the first staging of what is to be a regular Good Friday contest between these local rivals.
But, more importantly, the real winners on the day were the fans, the game of rugby and the Oral Cancer Charity chosen by the family of the former Fylde winger, who died tragically young last year, to benefit from the generous donations of Lightfoot Green’s biggest crowd of the season.
The weather gods certainly smiled on the occasion, providing the perfect conditions for a display of the best in running rugby.
And the players responded in style with a 13-try see-saw tussle which was anything but a non-tackling runaround in the sun but rather a fiercely-contested derby.
Legs, young and old alike, were still giving it their all deep into stoppage time as Fylde desperately tried to salvage a draw – or even victory – from a game which they once led by 14 points, only to later find themselves in arrears by the same margin.
Both sides started with a liberal sprinkling of regular first-teamers as well as some up-and-coming youngsters.
But there was plenty of talent from earlier years – recent and not so recent – waiting in the wings to get back into the old rivalries.
Thus, Hoppers were able to give a run to Wayne Steel, Neil Ashton and Glyn Dewhurst, while Fylde could call on Sam Russell, Nick King, Grant Ferguson and Greg Anderton to revive memories of past heroics.
In a remarkable display of goalkicking from a variety of angles, Lewis Allen landed all five of his conversion attempts for Hoppers while Fylde’s Michael Lawton succeeded with all his six.
Ollie Carter, on his way to Preston from Vale of Lune, kicked one out of two for the home side.
Preston Grasshoppers bagged the first try through Sean Taylor.
But Lawton, Warren Spragg and Ollie Brennand replied for the visitors to put them 21-7 up on 22 minutes.
Taylor claimed a hat-trick with two more touchdowns in quick .
And young replacement Ryan Marshall put the hosts back in front just before half-time.
Conor Trueman, who policed the dangerous Brennand well all afternoon, scored in the first minute of the second half.
But tries by former Hopper Ollie Viney and Tom Webb, plus a penalty try, took Fylde ahead again.
Two more replacements gave Hoppers the final say, with Harrison Moulding and Anthony Elliott touching down.
That led to a nerve-racking six minutes of added time in which Fylde just could not manage a final score.
The fixture will alternate between Lightfoot Green and Ansdell on coming Good Fridays.
And no doubt the sizeable crowd will already be savouring the prospect of an equally entertaining return game at Fylde next year.