Preston Grasshoppers give head coach Paul Arnold the perfect send-off
With promotion to the fourth tier of national rugby already secured, Preston Grasshoppers rounded off their successful season with a dominant 59-8 win over Widnes to lift the John Burgess Lancashire Cup at Wigan’s Douglas Valley ground.
The fixture had been delayed beyond the end of the playing season and Hoppers were without some of the key players who had featured throughout the campaign.
But they still put on an impressive performance, running in nine tries in what was head coach Paul Arnold’s last match in charge.
From the kick off, Hoppers took the game to Widnes with fast breaks and passing moves pressing deep into the opposition half.
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The first try came in just 10 minutes when Ben Pearson collected a Widnes clearance and took a quick lineout to send Jacob Browne to the opposition’s 10m line for Tyler Spence to sprint down his wing and score in the corner.
Widnes were then awarded a penalty just on the halfway line. Full-back Owens confidently teed the ball up and stroked it through the posts.
Then, with the game settling into a pattern, Widnes were constantly defending in their 22 and taking a stream of energy-sapping tackles as Hoppers repeatedly attacked their line.
The second and third tries came within minutes when Spence added to his tally by collecting the ball from a tapped penalty and diving over the line, quickly followed by Jacob Browne, from a pass by Will Clapham who, having received it on the halfway line, danced his way through a bewildered Widnes defence before feeding the full-back to score.
The fourth try by hooker Harry Holden was the result of a powerful forwards’ attack leaving the score at the break, 26-3 to Hoppers.
Preston then began to control the game and the second half showed their class with tries from Toby Harrison, a second from Browne, Will Clapham, Ally Murray and Ben Dorrington, with Pearson converting all but one.
Widnes rallied well in the final minutes.
With fast passing moves, they made several breaks into the Preston 22 and were rewarded with an unconverted try.
They might have had a second only minutes later when an intercepted pass inside their own 22 sent winger Kraus racing into the deserted Hoppers’ half only to be foiled by the referee who was playing the advantage from an earlier high tackle.
With the final score 59-8, head coach Arnold was delighted, He said:“I thought they came at us really hard but defensively, we were really strong, and, with a few of the regular lads unavailable today, the team showed just how good they are.
"Since our defeat to Alnwick in December, we’ve not lost a game and I’m so proud of all of them.”Club captain Ally Murray said: “The first 20 minutes were tough, we knew they were going to come at us, it’s a cup final after all, but to stick at it and then pull away in the second half was nice.”
And team captain Sam Stott added: “There are not many better ways to end the season, a cup win, promotion – it’s a great way to send Arnie off and a good way to go forward into next year.”