But it is a mark of how high they set their standards that head coach Paul Arnold was able to reflect approvingly on his players’ disappointment in the post-match huddle.
“They knew they had let themselves down in the second half, just going through the. motions,” he said. “We should be smiling but are a bit disappointed. I love their passion and their pack mentality.
They are fairly small in stature but with a massive heart. They are working hard and want to improve.”
On that basis, Hoppers will be looking to replicate their performance in the first 40 minutes, rather than what came after.
They set their stall out early with a strong charge from No .8 Matt Lamprey and a hugely disruptive scrum. So it was no surprise when Lamprey was twice involved in an attack which ended with flanker Toby Harrison setting up winger Jordan Dorrington for the first try after 10 minutes.
With Sandal flanker Tom Wilson in the sinbin, his side gifted Lamprey two quick tries with handling errors in defence, to lift his tally to 13 for the season.
Alex Ward landed both conversions but Sandal centre Josh Adams brought the score to 19-3 with straightforward penalty
However, Hoppers had the last word of a very efficient half when Sam Scott’s run created the space for flanker Ben Dorrington to juggle his way over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Hoppers had dominated the scrums and looked dangerous in attack, but went off the boil in other respects after the break.
Sandal tightened up their scrummaging and reduced their handling errors, while the hosts started overcomplicating their attacking play, as well as regularly falling foul of referee Matthew Riley at the breakdown.
That rather helped the visitors avert the points avalanche that might have been expected at half-time while turning the second period into a somewhat drab affair.
Indeed, Sandal narrowed the gap in the closing stages when some sloppy Hoppers play allowed prop Alan Elder to claim a try converted by Adams.
But Hoppers hit back to see winger Tyler Spence narrowly denied a touchdown at the corner before man-of-the-match Sam Stott darted over from a tap penalty for his 10th try of the season, converted by Ward.
Arnold was particularly impressed with the all-round play of Lamprey, Stott and his back three, Jordan Dorrington, Spence and Jacob Browne, as well as lock Declan Norrington on his first start.
But, ahead of the trip to third-placed Billingham, he will be stressing the need for a full 80-minute performance from all the squad.
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