Preston Grasshoppers held at home by Wharfedale

Hoppers 26 Wharfedale 26Preston Grasshoppers had two vital league points snatched away from them in a remarkable 15th minute of second-half stoppage time, when a prolonged Wharfedale siege brought them the draw-securing converted try.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 9:58 am
Action from Hoppers' draw with Wharfedale (photo: Mike Craig)

Wharfedale siege brought them the draw-securing converted try, writes PAUL OUTHWAITE.

It had been backs to the wall for more than 10 minutes before a heroic Hoppers defence was eventually stretched to the limit as centre Jonny Moore crashed over and Jack Blakeney-Edwards converted.

It has been quite a season for draws in National League Two North – this was the ninth and Paul Arnold’s men have been involved in three.

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Hoppers head coach said: “We were after four points today but only picked up two and everyone’s disappointed.

“I can’t knock the lads’ heart – no one’s giving it up.”

Hoppers remain next-to-bottom almost two-thirds of the way through the campaign.

The game started 15 minutes late because referee Ieuan Davies was held up in traffic and finished two hours later, thanks to eight minutes of stoppage time in the first half and almost twice as much in the second.

With so many hold-ups it was a wonder there was any entertaining rugby and sure enough there were only three tries, with eight successful penalty kicks.

The first of the 27 penalties handed out by Mr Davies saw Blakeney-Edwards put Wharfedale ahead after just three minutes. Tom Davidson responded in kind six minutes later.

On 27 minutes, Wharfedale lost the ball in midfield and a hack ahead saw Hoppers winger Jacob Browne get his nose ahead in the chase for the line.

After a chat with his touch judge, Mr Davies decided he had been impeded illegally as he dived for the ball over the visitors’ line and awarded a penalty try as well as yellow-carding Dale lock Matt Beasley.

With both kickers again exchanging penalties, Hoppers took a 13-6 lead into the half-time break. Blakeney-Edwards kicked an early penalty and Hoppers lost hooker Chris Taylor to the sinbin but actually increased their lead in his absence, thanks to a 40-metre interception try by Alex Hurst.

Davidson converted and added a penalty to make the four points look safe for his side. As he and Blakeney-Edwards again exchanged penalties, Hoppers went into the final 15 minutes with a 14-point advantage.

But, as Wharfedale had proved at Fylde two weeks earlier, they never give up and, although Hoppers had defended well against their line-out drives all afternoon, they could not stop replacement Toms Asejevs driving over for a converted try.

Davidson failed with a long-range penalty.

Wharfedale mounted a relentless battering of the line and aided by penalty after penalty which extended the finish to the 55th minute of the half.

And with Hoppers replacement Toby Harrison in the sin bin, they worked Moore over for the converted try that broke Preston hearts.