Preston Grasshoppers claim derby victory as they hit back with second-half display

Hoppers 21 Blackburn 19

By Paul Outhwaite
Sunday, 13th February 2022, 10:25 am
Updated Sunday, 13th February 2022, 10:26 am

In a classic Lancashire derby, Preston Grasshoppers overturned a 14-point half-time deficit to clinch a narrow victory and move above Blackburn to second place in the North Premier League.

It was a full-blooded and – thanks to the visitors’ many enthusiastic supporters –full-throated game, with Blackburn making the most of the wind at their backs in the first half, but Hoppers adjusting their game significantly after the break to take advantage of the worsening conditions.

Head coach Paul Arnold said: “We played in some good areas in the first half but got caught up in the emotion and our discipline let us down. There were no bad players on our side, but Matt Lamprey and Harrison Moulding were the stand-outs.”

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Hoppers on the attack against Blackburn (photo: Mike Craig)

The hosts began by pinning Blackburn in their own half for seven minutes but then successive penalties handed the advantage over and a line-out deep in the 22 saw the ever-threatening No.8 Scott Richardson drIven over for the first try after 13 minutes.

Pat Gaffey converted and Hoppers embarked on a series of errors – poor touch kicks, lost line-outs, interceptions, forced passes, knock-ons and a near miss in the corner for Will Clapham – before Richardson latched onto a barnstorming break by all-action forward Corey Logan to claim his second converted try.

Things were looking as bleak as the weather, but Arnold’s half-time pep talk worked wonders and Hoppers opened their account after just four minutes.

Jacob Browne was forced into touch at the corner but Toby Harrison was driven over from a line-out, Ward converted and the very next raid by the hosts won them a penalty try – their fifth of the season – to tie the scores.

Hoppers were continuing to make errors, but Blackburn couldn’t capitalise and, with 10 minutes left, when prop Pete Altham was halted on the line, Lamprey was on hand to claim his 14th try of the campaign.

Ward’s simple conversion was to prove crucial as Blackburn threw everything into the final stages and drove Richardson over for his hat-trick try from another line-out.

Gaffey’s conversion from the touchline went well wide and Hoppers closed out the game on the attack, with Lamprey not quite able to make the line for the bonus-point try from a scrum with the visitors’ Sammy Russell in the sin-bin.

It was a nerve-shredding afternoon for the home fans, but Hoppers, having won six in a row, now lead the chase after table-toppers Otley, who come to Lightfoot Green on Saturday week.