Preston Grasshoppers 18, Sheffield 24: Frustration for Hoppers

​​Another losing bonus point did little to dispel the air of frustration among Preston Grasshoppers’ players, coaches and supporters, despite an heroic defensive performance.
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“We’re playing some good stuff and I feel we’re making progress … slow progress,” said assistant coach Dan Orwin, while senior player Ally Murray commented: “it’s disappointing; we should have won. We defended well for large parts of the game, but little things cost us.”Orwin concurred: “We put in lots and lots of effort, and some really good defensive efforts. But we defend well for eight or nine phases, then give it away.“We kicked the ball away a few times too and we don’t seem able to close out tight games. But I feel it’s coming.”Hoppers were up against it from the off, spending the first 10 minutes in their own half before, almost inevitably, Sheffield took the lead with a try by flanker Alex Fawdry, converted by Will Hodgson.Will Hunt’s astute chip deserved a try but a knock-on foiled the hosts, who nevertheless drew level on 16 minutes when hooker Christian Taylor - in his last game before embarking on a trip to Australia - crashed over after Jake Squirrell was held just short of the line.Hunt converted but Sheffield renewed the pressure and regained a lead that they would never lose when winger Christian Hopper went over for a try again converted by Hodgson.Hunt kept his side in touch with a penalty following good work by Ben Pearson, Josh Jones and Taylor, but the visitors had the last word of the half when hard-working No 8 Ryan Burrows rounded off some impressive interpassing among the forwards.Hodgson missed the conversion and Hoppers got back in losing-bonus-point territory with another Hunt penalty early in the second half.A yellow card for a tip tackle by Sheffield centre Kai Douglas gave the hosts the incentive to draw within a point when Murray drove over in the corner for an unconverted try.Things could have got even better but Jacob Browne wasn’t quite able to latch onto another neat kick by Hunt, who, said Orwin, “has made a big difference with the way he controls the game”.But Hoppers were still mostly on the defensive and, with 10 minutes to go, conceded a try from a line-out drive, claimed by prop Ben Whitney. Fortunately for Hoppers’ losing bonus point, Hodgson could not convert.With so many other games postponed, both this weekend and before Christmas, the National League Two North table has a slightly confusing look.Hoppers remain third from bottom and Fylde did them a neighbourly good turn by winning at bottom club Blaydon. But all around them have games in hand and they need to start making good on Orwin’s belief that better things lie ahead.

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