Preston Grasshoppers 48, Scunthorpe 24: Hoppers get season up and running
A first win and a first bonus point lifted Preston Grasshoppers to seventh place in National League Two North after twice coming from behind to defeat promoted Scunthorpe.
Head coach Paul Arnold said: “We aimed to back up last week’s draw at Fylde and get five points today, and we did. We probably left four tries out there but we worked hard at the set-piece – especially on their line-out ball – and for once I was quite calm at half-time.
“I said we had to tighten up a few things against a dogged Scunthorpe side and that’s what we did.”
Arnold was once again pleased with the way his substitutions paid off – he made his first after less than 20 minutes -- with Sam Wallbank, Ben Dorrington and Alex Hurst in particular making an impact. Fly-half Joe Prior also won his coach’s parise for the way he mixed his game up effectively.
There was a shock for the home fans in only the second minute when Jake Squirrell was stripped of the ball at the back of a scrum and full-back Will Scammell rounded off the counter-attack with a try converted by Paul Cook.
Hoppers wasted their first real chance with a knock-on after they had pounded the Scunthorpe line, but lock Ally Murray – later to leave the fray for stitches to a head wound – was driven over from a line-out and Squirrell’s conversion levelled the scores.
Scunthorpe quickly regained the lead from an attacking line-out, centre Will Robinson going over and converting his own try. But that unleashed a flurry of five Hoppers tries without reply in the next 40 minutes.
First up was rugby league recruit Nick Gregson who finished off good work by Ben Dorrington and Tyler Spence. His conversion hit a post but he made amends with an angled penalty.
Next, Wallbank started the strong build-up to a try by Jordan Dorrington and the home side went in 20-14 to the good at half-time. Wallbank himself claimed the bonus-point try straight after the break following strong runs by Sam Stott and Matt Lamprey.
Winger Matt Crow was twice unlucky not to capitalise on kicks behind a panicky Scunthorpe defence, before Stott dropped the ball in the act of scoring. Fortunately, referee Ben Rayner was playing advnantage and, from the penalty, Stott this time did manage to ground the ball safely in the corner.
A break by Hurst put Spence over for the sixth touchdown and, with Gregson converting all three since the break, Hoppers had a handsome 41-14 lead.
Winger Ben McStay pulled back five points for the visitors after Scammell’s break, but Hoppers’ man-of-the-match, flanker Toby Harrison was driven over from a line-out, with Squirrell converting.
Fifty points eluded the hosts when Prior couldn’t quite hold on to his own kick ahead and Scunthorpe had the last word with a bonus-point try by replacement James Walker while Hoppers’ Ryan Carlson was in the sinbin.
But it wasn’t going to wipe the smile off Arnold’s face as his side climbed nicely up the table with another home game to come next Saturday.