Preston Grasshoppers 24, Harrogate 17

Ollie Trippier
Ollie Trippier

Preston Grasshoppers pocketed another five points to take them within two victories of clinching promotion from the North Premier League.

Preston Grasshoppers pocketed another five points to take them within two victories of clinching promotion from the North Premier League.

However it the win over second-placed Harrogate left head coach Paul Arnold far from impressed.

“It was not a vintage performance,” he said. “Our execution let us down and we made some really poor decisions in attack. I had stern words at half-time about it, but we were pretty average at times.

“This was a day when it was more about the result than the performance and Hull being held to a draw at Ilkley makes it an even better day.”

That result means that the Humbersiders can only reach 106 points, while Hoppers already have 96 with five games left.

It looked like it was going to be a much easier afternoon on a very wet day when Hoppers went 17-3 up inside half-an hour, thanks in large part to their scrum dominance.

The first try came after Harrogate were pushed off their own ball close to the line and Matt Lamprey fed fellow back-rower Ollie Trippier for the unconverted touchdown.

Another mighty scrum by the hosts saw No 8 Lamprey crash over for another unconverted try as Preston dominated territorially.

Even after Trippier found himself sinbinned as the Yorkshiremen drove for the line from a line-out, they could only add three points – a penalty by fly-half Luke White – while they had the one-man advantage. And before Trippier’s return, Hoppers had breached their defence again, White’s misjudged clearance kick allowing the hosts to build an attack rounded off from close range by Ally Murray. This time Jake Squirrell converted.

Hoppers wrapped up the four-try bonus point early in the second half as Lamprey claimed his second score from a pushover while Harrogate prop Connor Ward was in the sinbin. That drew Lamprey level with Michael Lough’s record of 27 tries in a season, set almost 20 years ago. Sadly, after Squirrell converted, it was the last real bit of excitement for the home fans as the final half-hour developed into a Roses war of attrition, played out mainly in the Preston 22.

There was some dogged defence, but it could not prevent two late Harrogate tries. Firstly, they profited from what looked an obvious knock-on on halfway to camp on the Hoppers line and eventually smuggle flanker Tim Heaton over for a try.

A misguided word to referee Matt Riley gave the visitors a penalty at the restart, so Preston were immediately on the back foot again and eventually conceded another close-range touchdown, by lock Sam Brady, converted by White with the last kick off the game, to give Harrogate a losing bonus point.