Preston Grasshoppers’ spirit shows as two stoppage-time tries earn draw

Never-say-die Preston Grasshoppers staged a remarkable fightback in stoppage time to share the spoils with visitors Hull in a 30-30 draw.
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Trailing 30-18 going into added time, they conjured up two tries and a conversion to collect three points and move themselves above Lymm and Hull’s neighbours Ionians in the National League Two North table.

Director of rugby Alex Keays was hugely satisfied with his side’s overall performance. “That’s the best we’ve played since I came back here last season,” he said. “We looked like a proper rugby team. We defended well and played some really good rugby.

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“We didn’t fold when we were behind and it’s all about having trust that we can run the ball from our own half, don’t relax and keep working hard.

Action from Hoppers' 30-30 draw with Hull at Lightfoot Green (photo: Mike Craig)Action from Hoppers' 30-30 draw with Hull at Lightfoot Green (photo: Mike Craig)
Action from Hoppers' 30-30 draw with Hull at Lightfoot Green (photo: Mike Craig)

“We looked comfortable against a side that has just been relegated.

"There were a number of guys who stood up today – Ally Murray, Jack Wilkinson, Scott Richardson, who had his best game for the club, and Jacob Browne, who was outstanding. This is the birth of a proper team.”

Keays’ opposite number, former Samoan star Mike Umaga, who has known him for many years, said he told his players: “You will have to play for 85 minutes to beat a team of Keays’s.”

And so it proved...

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The only points of the first half-hour came from the boot of Hull fly-half Reece Dean, who kicked two easy penalties. But between them, Hoppers thought they had the first try, when a run by Ben Haigh led to Olly Trippier crashing over, only to be denied on the assistant referee’s intervention for a forward pass.

Will Hunt landed one out of two penalty kicks, but a succession of penalties against the home side ended with Hull hooker Michael Jobling going over from a line-out.

Dean converted from the touchline but Hoppers dragged it back to 16-8 at half-time when Browne made a break, Hunt lofted a cross kick and Tyler Spence pouched it in the corner.

Hunt missed the conversion and an early second-half penalty, but was on target after another Browne run ended with Jack Wilkinson crashing over.

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Hull responded with a converted try from David Halafonia, but when Jobling was sin-binned, Hunt landed the penalty.

Hull seemed to have sealed victory when slick passing put Bureta Faraimo in for a try converted by Dean as the game went into stoppage time.

But there were nine minutes of that and Hoppers made full use of it when they bundled Rob Willetts over after a tap penalty, and then saw Jack Lightowler round off another long-range Browne break to go over triumphantly in the corner for the bonus-point try.

Hunt made the first conversion, but couldn’t clinch a comeback win with the second.

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