Hoppers' spirit sees them bounce back
Ilkley 24 Preston Grasshoppers 29At half-time, Hoppers had a mountain to climb and their unbeaten record looked distinctly under threat as they trailed 17-5.
But Preston battled back for another vital victory.
The hosts were on the back foot in the tight from the start and Hoppers were first on the scoreboard as Sam Gale was driven over in the fourth minute.
But, despite some untidy ball from set-pieces, the home backs started to go through their paces and some good hands created an overlap and wing Josh Hall was in at the corner to level the scores at 5-5.
A rather harsh yellow card reduced Ilkley to 14 men but their lively backs continued to exert pressure, while a missed tackle in midfield let in No.8 Max Mackay to take the lead. As half time loomed, a mix-up in Hoppers’ defenc,e with the referee interfering with play, saw scrum-half Jack Mapleson touch down under the posts and kicker Charles Morgan added the extras to give his side a deserved 12-point lead. At the restart, the home pack continued to infringe giving Hoppers good field position and, after a break from Niall Crosley, Scott Jordan was on hand to dot down in the corner.
The visiting pack were now very much on top with Arnold, coming off the bench, leading the charge and a strong drive put Oli Trippier in to reduce the deficit to just two points.
But Hoppers’ recovery appeared to be halted as home full-back Ben Magee, a constant threat in attack, spotted a gap for a fine individual try and Morgan converted to make it 24-15 with 12 minutes left on the clock.
Hoppers’ pack then really put on the pressure and driving play saw Ally Murray touch down.
And, after a second yellow card for the hosts, Trippier was in for his second, both converted by Jake Squirrell, to take the points.
Hoppers head coach Arnold said: “Ilkley are a good side and contained us in the first period and the players needed a bit of a rocket at the break.
“But the pack were on top and the backs made better use of possession in the second half. We played to our strengths and got an important bonus-point win.”