Hoppers 21 Leicester Lions 5
Unpredictable Preston Grasshoppers pulled off a possibly season-saving victory over third-placed Leicester Lions to move back off the bottom of National League Two North.
In a performance full of confidence and character, they always held the upper hand against the play-off-chasing Lions
Head coach Garth Dew said: “It’s bizarre that we can do that and other weeks be so inconsistent. The attitude in the build-up was really good.
“We stressed that the big message was to chase hard, make the hits and get back onside.”
Hoppers delivered on all of that – and more. “The scrum was great, our discipline was outstanding and there were far less handling error,” said Dew.
Leicester were quite disappointing, with a series of unforced errors keeping Hoppers’ momentum going as they progressed to a 13-0 half-time lead, added a second try and survived a late fightback with only one score conceded.
Preston almost made the perfect start, Lewis Allen going over in the fourth minute only to be called back for a forward pass.
The skipper, operating at full-back, got the scoreboard moving, though, with an 18th-minute penalty and another 14 minutes later.
On the stroke of halftime, he also converted a pushover try by No.8 Corey Logan.
The hosts’ tight forwards were on top throughout, frequently pushing the Lions pack backwards.
Behind them, recent recruit Ryan Glynn varied his game nicely at scrum-half, and Dew said: “He showed his class, and his kicking game created several turnovers.” Prop Peter Altham shone too, not just at the scrums but also with his work around the park, while centre Tom Forster made a try-saving tackle in the corner.
Hoppers increased their lead early in the second half when Niall Crossley took the outside route round the defence in a 40-metre burst to the line.
The winger was also alert enough to save his line after a chip through by young Leicester fly-half James Grayson, who was being watched by his father, ex-Hoppers favourite and England star Paul.
Allen missed the touchline conversion but soon landed a simpler penalty – which proved the end of Preston’s scoring.
The Lions belatedly started to roar, but the home defence held out well, apart from an unconverted try in the corner, from Grayson’s short pass, by replacement Ollie Tapscott. But there was no denying Hoppers their fifth victory of a difficult campaign.
With seven games left, Dew said: “Survival is still in our hands.”
More of the same is the order of the day – there can be no going back to some of the performances which have seen his side wilt under pressure to lose nine games by fewer than 10 points.