Huddersfield 19 Preston Grasshoppers 17
Despite outscoring the hosts by three tries to one, Hoppers had to be content with leaving Huddersfield with just a losing bonus point.
The result hinged very much on a tale of two kickers with the usually reliable Lewis Allen missing three eminently kickable penalties while his counterpart Joel Hinchliffe was successful with five from five.
A rueful head coach Garth Dew summed it up: “We attacked well in the first half but failed to take all our opportunities. But after the break, we lost composure and control, allowed them to slow the play down and didn’t use the conditions.”
Hoppers conceded an early penalty before forward pressure won good field position and, after Allen was wide with a penalty, centre Billy Woof made a midfield break and, when the ball was recycled, was on hand to force his way over on 10 minutes.
The kicked failed as did another Allen penalty attempt, admittedly into a brisk breeze, before Hinchliffe put his side 6-5 in front. But Hoppers’ pack were well on top at this stage and, opting for a scrum from a penalty under the posts, a drive by the pack allowed Phil Mills to battle over and this time Allen was on target.
Hinchcliffe kicked his third penalty but his opposite number was wide with an attempt and the hosts were relieved to be still in touch at 12-9 down at the break.
With the wind and sun at their backs in the second period, Hoppers continued to run the ball at every opportunity but over-anxiety led to some loose play and handling errors and the home pack started to take a measure of control. On 58 minutes, Hinchliffe tied the scores and, now dominating possession, the hosts mounted a series of attacks that eventually brought a try for lock Austen Thompson and the kick was good.
With time running out, it seemed that Hoppers were to be denied the losing bonus point but replacement kicker Chris Bell put a relatively simple penalty wide and, to their credit, Hoppers at last produced a flowing move which found two unlikely wide men in props Richard Morton and Pete Altham and the latter fended off the defence to score in the corner. Sam Russell, again the pick of the backs, took the unenviable conversion to secure the draw but it drifted wide.
This leaves Hoppers very much in the relegation mix, the only consolation being that none of the other strugglers won although all gained points. Only wins at home to Caldy and away at fellow strugglers Hull in the next two weeks will guarantee survival.