Preston Grasshoppers 32, York 9
Preston Grasshoppers clocked up 24 unanswered points in the last 45 minutes to secure a second bonus-point home win in the Northern Premier League and move up to fifth in the table.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing against first-time visitors York in a game punctuated by lengthy injury stoppages.
Hoppers got off to the perfect start with a try in the first minute, but then struggled to assert their superiority as a succession of penalties kept them starved of possession for much of the rest of the half.
Head coach Paul Arnold said he had hard words at the break after “we didn’t come to terms with the refereeing of the breakdown. We were naive at times.”
But Hoppers did much better after claiming the second try just before half-time. “We broke them when we kept the ball,” said Arnold, who was also pleased with his players’ response to his instructions to “let the rugby do the talking” rather than have too many voices on the field.
Arnold praised Ben Pearson’s performance at fly-half, and “good shifts” put in by prop Pete Altham in his 150th game and Ewan Naylor, drafted in at lock.
But the outstanding all-round showing again came from centre Sam Stott. Winger Jacob Browne got his side off to a flyer, rounding off some flowing rugby straight from the kick-off with an unconverted try.
But Hoppers found it hard to create further chances, mostly due to lack of possession through the nine first-half penalties they conceded.
That allowed York fly-half Declan Cusack to slot three three-pointers - the first when Luke Procter was sin binned - with only a single penalty by Jake Squirrell in reply.
Meanwhile, injuries were also disrupting play, with hooker Christian Taylor, Browne and prop Noah Miller all going off.
But the hosts finally reasserted themselves when Matt Crow latched onto a burst by Stott to score a try converted by Jake Squirrell.
That made it 15-9 at the end of a half extended by 10 minutes’ stoppage time and Hoppers emulated their early first-half score with another straight after the break
The lively Same Gale was held on the line but full-back Alex Taylorson was on hand to touch down. Squirrell converted and quickly added a try of his own after breaking from a scrum and linking well with Scott and Gale.
The casualty toll mounted when York winger Rob Hodges suffered an awful ankle injury when tackled just short of the line, while home centre Matt Crow also limped off.
All these problems forced skipper Taylor back into the fray and he was rewarded with the fifth try following a line-out drive.
Browne was back on too, but his mixed day ended with a yellow card as Hoppers defended valiantly to keep their line intact for the second successive home game.
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