Preston Grasshoppers make it 11 wins on the spin!
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They took their points aggregate in their last three games to a remarkable 227 to nil and this was their sixth “whitewash” of the campaign.
One unexpected statistic in a niggly but hardly violent clash was that the tally of yellow cards from referee Gavin Jones almost equalled the number of tries – seven to nine.
Despite another emphatic win for second-placed Hoppers, director of rugby Gareth Dyer had his criticisms.
“We didn’t quite get the balance right,” he said. “Our defensive and attacking structures are still open to growth. There were another 20 to 30 points to be had out there.
“But with a lot of off the ball stuff, we did well to keep our discipline.
“We have’nt had a complete performance yet …that’s the challenge.”
One aspect that did impress everyone, though, was Hoppers’ determination, once again, not to give away points, despite a huge lead. “In the last stages of recent games, we’ve been ruthless in not conceding,” said Dyer. “We don’t give anything away.”
For once, it took a while for Hoppers to open their account – a full eight minutes! A calm build-up ended with Tyler Spence’s 12th try of the season.
The four-try bonus point was reached in less than half an hour, thanks to touchdowns by Sam Gale, skipper Christian Taylor, with his 14th of the campaign, and Dan Pearson, who also finished with eight conversions out of nine to nudge his tally for the season close to 150 points.
His try totally bamboozled Wirral as he feinted to cross-kick but shot through an inviting gap.
The first two sin-binnings came late in the opening half, with Wirral lock Hayden Long and Hoppers’ Toby Harrison serving time in the cooler.
The hosts’ Jordan Dorrington and Wirral replacement Ben Brooks followed early in the second half. And before the close, Mr Jones also yellow-carded full-back Chris Cowley and hooker Stu Gratton of Wirral, leading to temporary uncontested scrums, plus Hoppers No 8 Matt Lamprey.
In between all this coming and going, the hosts continued to run in the tries, with two for Rob Bramhall and one each for Harrison, Will Clapham and Jordan Dorrington, his 13th of the season.
Hoppers had to defend stoutly in the closing minutes as Wirral bravely tried to get on the scoreboard. But, in truth, the visitors were outclassed in virtually every phase of the game, from Hoppers’ scrum dominance to the defence-splitting running and support play of their backs.
The victory keeps them within three points of leaders Otley, who had a comfortable win over Hoppers’ next opponents, Alnwick.