Preston Grasshoppers 77, Northwich 0: Hoppers off to a flyer on opening day
Preston Grasshoppers fans could hardly have wished for a more satisfying end to their 18-month rugby drought than this 12-try demolition of North Premier League newcomers Northwich.
Equally pleased was head coach Paul Arnold, who said: “We did everything we wanted to. Our work-rate, desire and defence were excellent and we were able to show that we have an exciting and dangerous young back line.
“The return of Sam Gale brought a good balance to the back row, alongside Matt Lamprey and Toby Harrison.”
Although he promised not to be too hard on his side, Arnold admitted: “We still have things to work on and at times our accuracy in attack let us down - we went a bit wild on occasions.”
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And the coach knows things can only get harder next Saturday when Hoppers travel to Otley. But, in the meantime, everyone can look back with a lot of satisfaction on an afternoon which started with a try inside two minutes and offered a continuous stream of them thereafter.
Indeed, the longest time they went without a score was 18 minutes. They ran in four tries in 12 minutes either side of half-time and another four in the final quarter of an hour.
Eight players bagged touchdowns – lock Luke Procter, centre Sam Stott, No 8 Matt Lamprey and replacement wing Tyler Spence with two apiece, and one each for skipper Christian
Taylor, centre Jordan Dorrington, full-back Ben Pearson and winger Will Clapham, who was later stretchered off with a knee injury.
Several of the tries came from clinical turnovers as Northwich continued to run into brick walls and others were down to thrilling handling and finishing. Young fly-half Tom Walker converted seven of the them and kicked an early penalty for a 17-point haul, as well as displaying promising creative flair.
Northwich never got into the game, falling off tackles right from the start and suffering a mauling in the scrums, where they were regularly shunted backwards by a powerful Preston pack.
They also collected the only yellow card of the game, when forward Tomas Wilson was sin binned for a high tackle in the shadow of his own posts.
Hoppers showed plenty of enterprise throughout in a non-stop performance that kept the sizeable crowd on its toes and had the four-try bonus point in the bag before half-time.
Encouragingly, they showed no let-up and were still swarming towards the Northwich line deep into stoppage time.
There will undoubtedly be harder afternoons ahead – but, for now, Hoppers can bask in the glow of a job well done in their first outing for a year and a half.
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