“Deja-vu” was head coach Paul Arnold’s comment after the match and the pain in his voice reflected yet another last minute defeat in a game that was all but secured.
Hoppers started well and could have been three points up if the penalty awarded in the fourteenth minute on the Lions’ 22m line in front of the posts had not sailed wide.
They were rewarded almost immediately when Davidson found touch deep in the Leicester half. Hoppers won the ball and new boy Rouban Birch crossed the line for the first try inside the corner.
Soon after the restart the Lions had a penalty just inside the Preston half. Fly half Lewis stepped up and sent the ball over the posts to reduce the Hoppers’ lead to two points.
Play was then a scrappy battle between the forwards with little ground gained by either side until a break from the Leicester scrum half Smit took the Lions to within 5m of the Hoppers’ line where sustained pressure by their pack enabled Lewis to put them in the lead at 8 – 5 with five minutes to go to half time.
Hoppers responded quickly and a penalty kick took them down to the Lions’ 22 where, from the forwards’ sustained pressure, Alastair Murray scored and Davidson converted.
The second half started with an early converted try by Leicester winger Constant. Lions extended their lead three minutes later when Lewis again found the posts with a penalty kick from the Preston 10m line.
Despite Hoppers’ dominance in the scrum, they were unable to profit from it and their frustration was compounded by yet another penalty scored by Lewis from the Preston 10m line.
Then Hoppers seemed to settle and played through several phases where some quick handling moved them towards the Leicester line and a try for James Fitzpatrick, but the conversion bounced off the post. With fifteen minutes remaining the score was 21 - 17.
Hoppers then pressed on and a long kick from Davidson took them to the opposition 5m line. A break by Fitzpatrick gave Birch his second try which was converted giving Hoppers a three point lead with nine minutes remaining.
Leicester missed a penalty to square the match and Hoppers only had to see out the last two minutes when Lions’ Martin broke through to score easily.
Paul Arnold said, “Our game management needs to be better, they are a decent side and we took two points. Two kicks that hit the posts made the difference in the result. We need to put this behind us and move on”.