Preston Grasshoppers blow away rivals for promotion

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Billingham 0 Hoppers 22

As Storm Malik blew its anger across the north of the country, Preston Grasshoppers travelled to Billingham where the conditions were to be a major factor in the game against their rivals for promotion.

The strong, gusting wind blew Hoppers kick-off dead behind the posts and it was immediately obvious that open, expansive play was not going to be the pattern.

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The first quarter of the match had elapsed before Hoppers scored their first points when a break by prop Trippier into the Billingham half set up Stott, who raced into the Red Zone and passed to the supporting Browne.

Hoppers in action at Billingham (photo: Mike Craig)Hoppers in action at Billingham (photo: Mike Craig)
Hoppers in action at Billingham (photo: Mike Craig)

Ward’s conversion attempt was blown wide of the posts.

The second try came only minutes later with returnee Clapham on the end of another forwards-to-backs move this time with Jordan Dorrington making the final metres to feed Browne inside the 5m line who then off-loaded to the winger to cross in the corner.

Ward slotted the most difficult kick of the match with apparent ease to make the score 12-0 at half-time.

Billingham came out for the second half and immediately set about trying to use the wind which was now behind them. Hoppers were subjected to constant attacks inside their final third but their defence held the Billingham pack at bay.

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The game turned with the introduction of Altham into his usual position at prop and the effect was obvious as the home side were driven at every scrum and maul.

The third try was the result of yet another forwards’ press inside the Billingham 5m line when, after a series of pick-and-go moves, the ball came out to Stott who could not be caught from 15 metres and he touched down right of the post. Again the wind foiled the conversion attempt but with less than 20 minutes remaining, Grasshoppers were in the driving seat.

Billingham spent most of the final quarter desperately defending deep in their own half but were defeated by the best passing phase of the match when Lamprey – who had an excellent match – peeled from his own scrum, passed to Harrison, then on to Altham who found full back Browne alongside.

He raced through before passing to Spence to score in the corner.

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The conversion, unsurprisingly, missed as the wind hurled it aside and with 10 minutes to go Billingham were looking down the throat of a defeat to nil.

Things did look a little brighter for them when Hoppers’ Dorrington was yellow carded for a high tackle but the visitors saw out the final minutes doggedly defending their own try line to run out comfortable winners.

With no game next week, Hoppers have a welcome break before taking on Blackburn, now sitting one place below them at third in league, at Lightfoot Green on February 13.

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