Hoppers are back in the winning habit

Alex Hurst outpaces the cover to score for Hoppers (photo: Mike Craig)
Alex Hurst outpaces the cover to score for Hoppers (photo: Mike Craig)

Preston Grasshoppers 31 Rossendale 14

Hoppers survived an early scare to get back on track and bank another valuable five points at the top of the North Premier League.

Rossendale proved a tough nut to crack and led after the first quarter. But Preston’s powerhouse pack paved the way for an unanswered 31 points before the visitors grabbed a stoppage-time try to add a little gloss to the scoreline.

Hoppers head coach Paul Arnold said: “I am happy after last week’s blip at Kirkby Lonsdale. Rossendale are a very good side and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t the prettiest game but the performance was almost irrelevant – we got the five points.

“We were really focused in training and asked for them to show character and accountability for individual errors last week. We fronted up massively as a pack. It was a stop-start forward battle but we opted to keep scrummaging and smashed the life out of them.”

The game started badly for the hosts, conceding a penalty try within four minutes at Rossendale’s first line-out drive.

But Hoppers prop Oga Mabaya crashed over from a line-out drive of their own for an unconverted touchdown, before referee Matt Riley awarded his second penalty try after 22 minutes, giving Preston a succession of penalties before finally running out of patience with Rossendale’s defensive tactics.

When prop Pete Altham was held on the line soon afterwards, winger Niall Crossley was on hand to cross for his 11th try of the season.

Centre Sam Stott converted for a 12-point lead which Hoppers could not increase before half-time despite Rossendale prop Donald George-Nonyane being sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle.

It took just three minutes of the second half for Preston to bag the bonus-point try. Lock Chris Roddy produced a vital turnover as Rossendale attacked the home line, winger Tyler Spence set off on a long run down the right touchline and quick recycling saw centre Alex Hurst go over in the opposite corner.

Hurst was then yellow-carded himself for an alleged deliberate knock-on, but Rossendale could not capitalise, and Hoppers sealed victory with 15 minutes left when a second successive five-metre scrum saw their increasingly dominant pack shunt the opposition over their own line for No.8 Matt Lamprey to claim his 23rd try of the campaign.

Rossendale showed their do-or-die character in the closing stages, piling pressure on the Preston defence.

Hoppers responded magnificently until stoppage time, when there was clear run to the line for centre Jack Ward, one of a host of ex-Hoppers and Fylde players in Mark Nelson’s side. Another of them, fly-half Lewis Allen, converted, but it was Rossendale’s last throw of the dice.

Results elsewhere mean Hoppers extended their lead at the top to 20 points.