Preston Grasshoppers 34 Harrogate 17: Hoppers sitting pretty

Despite another patchy performance to give the fans palpitations, Preston Grasshoppers picked up all five points to widen the gap between themselves and Harrogate.
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​The Yorkshiremen are now 18 points behind Hoppers, with games running out in the bottom three of National League Two North.

But the home side’s director of rugby Alex Keay, while admitting that they are now sitting “pretty comfortably” in the table, wasn’t overwhelmed with their display after building a 21-point lead.

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“I’m disappointed that we dropped our standards,” he said. “We let them get away with too much around the breakdown. We played some fantastic rugby in the first half and, when we do that, we’re probably as good as the top three.

Hoppers' director of rugby Alex KeayHoppers' director of rugby Alex Keay
Hoppers' director of rugby Alex Keay

“That was our third home win in a row and we’re going in the right direction.”

One area which the coaches will have to work on before their next game in two weeks’ time is the line-out, which again let them down at key moments.

The players also need to find a way to play the percentages calmly and not get carried away after building a good lead.

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They took the initiative as early as the fifth minute when strong drives by Scott Richardson and Olly Trippier paved the way for centre Jacob Browne to cut clean through for a try converted by Will Hunt.

Harrogate hit straight back with a penalty by full-back Rory Macnab, but the rest of the half belonged to Hoppers.

They possibly missed a chance when Hunt opted for a kick ahead rather than a pass, but made no mistake when Harry Moulding switched the direction of play to allow Hunt to put centre Jake Maher over.

Lock Ally Murray got the third try after another Hunt chip and a drive to the line by prop Matt Woodward.

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With Hunt converting both and adding a penalty, Hoppers were sitting comfortably at 24-3.

The second half was a different story, with some scrappy play by the hosts – and a yellow card for Murray – giving Harrogate a foothold back into the game. Hunt gambled with a short drop-out from under the posts and the visitors took full advantage with a try by replacement Jacob Percival, converted by Macnab.

Hunt’s second penalty provided little breathing space as lock Sam Brady powered over from close range, with Macnab again converting.

Hoppers mounted a desperate bid to get the four-try bonus point, and finally achieved it with the last play of the game. A strong scrum and smooth handling put full-back Ben Pearson over and Hunt sealed a flawless performance from the kicking tee with the extra points.

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