It was fun in the sun all the way at Lightfoot Green on Saturday, with huge numbers supporting Preston Grasshoppers’ Family Fun Day – and the first team adding to the happy occasion with their biggest win of the season.
Although Huddersfield are already relegated from National League Two North, they didn’t look the worst side to come to Preston over the last eight months, so head coach Garth Dew was “very chuffed” that his team scored eight tries and topped 50 points.
“Our handling was very satisfactory, we made good decisions and that led to attractive rugby,” he said. “We’ve really drilled our attack this year but we have not often been able to put it into effect because of the ground conditions.
“We’re a young side and this experience will stand us in good stead. We said that, if we defended properly, Huddersfield were going to make mistakes and that’s what happened.”
Amid all-round praise for Hoppers’ performance, Dew made particular mention of Lewis Allen, switched to full-back in Sean Taylor’s absence, and especially winger Jacob Browne on his senior debut. “He had an absolute stormer,” said the coach, “and I am very pleased for him.”
Other youngsters such as John Mackenzie and Sam Gale are also regularly making their mark in a pack which has often dominated opponents this season, while flanker Will Lees has been in outstanding form throughout.
It took only seven minutes for Hoppers to open their account, lock Reece Tomlinson being driven over from a line-out catch. Browne’s break and perfect pass saw Harry Reddick claim the second, Allen converting both tries and adding a penalty, before Huddersfield hit back with a try by centre Tom Owen, converted by Joel Hinchliffe.
But Hoppers had bagged the four-try bonus point well before half-time. Dew scored his first senior try for the club after a line-out drive and neat footwork; Browne just managed to squeeze over line after a fine run by fly-half Mark Murray; and Allen rounded off good work by Gale, Lees and Charlie Hough, converting two of the three touchdowns for a 36-7 half-time lead.
Huddersfield began in style after the break, claiming the restart kick and getting hooker Ross Thornton over for an unconverted score.
They were spending plenty of time in Hoppers’ territory but, in the face of determined defence, their handling let them at several crucial moments and the hosts were able to cruise to 50 points inside the hour.
Another break by the speedy Browne put Charlie Hough over and, while Huddersfield flanker Liam Parfitt was in the sinbin, Lees scampered over from a run by Hough.
There was a bit of a hiccup when replacement Chris Bell exploited a huge defensive gap for the Yorkshiremen’s third try, but Hoppers had the last word when replacement prop John Peterson popped up on the touchline to round off a break by Harry Moulding. Allen’s kicking was near-perfect all afternoon and he converted all three second-half tries for a personal tally of 22 points.
The day’s final injection of fun came when Sandal drew at Tynedale in an evening game, guaranteeing Hoppers another year in National Two North next season.