Preston Grasshoppers 24 Sheffield Tigers 18: Hoppers withstand Tigers fightback

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Preston Grasshoppers clawed their way above Sheffield Tigers to claim 10th place in National League Two North.

But delight at their second victory of the season was tempered by thoughts that they should have picked up a four-try bonus and probably denied the visitors a losing bonus point.

Looking fairly comfortable with a 24-6 lead early in the second half, they were unable to add to their three tries in a long period of pressure and then saw the Tigers fight back with two scores of their own in extended stoppage time.

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Hoppers’ assistant coach Dan Orwin said: “We played some good stuff for 60 minutes, but we need to be more clinical. Our game management must be better and it was disappointing that Sheffield got a bonus point.

Match action from Hoppers' win over Sheffield Tigers (photo: Mike Craig)Match action from Hoppers' win over Sheffield Tigers (photo: Mike Craig)
Match action from Hoppers' win over Sheffield Tigers (photo: Mike Craig)

“There were some solid individual performances – Harry Moulding’s sniping around the scrum, an outstanding display from Ben Dorrington and the physicality and intensity of Will Riley.”

The former Kirkham Grammar School pupil shone on his debut with what Orwin called “some brilliant stuff”.

But in the end, he said that it felt like an opportunity missed – “although the win’s the most important thing. Our attack was much better and there was also defensive improvement.”

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Hoppers started well with an early penalty by Ben Pearson from a position created by Moudling’s lively half-break.

Three points soon became 10, when strong work by Scott Richardson and Ed Keohane led to Jacob Browne finishing a try converted by Pearson.

At this stage, Hoppers had won all five penalties awarded by referee James O’Brien. But the pendulum soon swung the other way and the Tigers ended the game with 23 penalties to the 12 awarded to Hoppers.

A lot of those came in a messy and unmemorable last quarter as Sheffield desperately tried to salvage something from the game after Hoppers had let them off the hook in a prolonged, but eventually pointless, period of attackMark Ireland had kicked the visitors’ first points after half an hour, but Hoppers responded with a close-range try from Richardson after more fine work by Moulding.

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Pearson converted, Ireland landed his second penalty and the hosts looked to be on their way to a big win when a great attack, sparked by Moulding and carried on by Dorrington and Sam Gale ended with the former touching down for Pearson to convert.

But when Hoppers could not capitalise on a lengthy spell in the Sheffield 22, all the action switched to the other end. Hoppers defended strongly, until Riley was sinbinned and the Tigers cashed in with tries from replacement Simon Meek, converted by Ireland, and winger Barnie Goatley as the penalty count mounted alarmingly.

Acknowledging that discipline had been a problem, Orwin said: “We have got to learn that we can’t keep doing things that the referee doesn’t like.”

The trip to Otley next Saturday provides the chance to put things right.