Preston Grasshoppers overcame appalling conditions and a dogged South Leicester side to record their first “whitewash” for more than a year.
Yet again, they collected a four-try bonus point – their 12th in 15 games – and moved up to seventh in National League Two North with a third successive win and a sixth out of seven at home.
“It wasn’t the greatest spectacle,” said head coach Paul Arnold, “but the lads said the ball was like a bar of soap.”
Hoppers could have had a better lead than 12-0 at the break if they had taken their chances, and Arnold said: “They were a bit down on themselves at half-time. I told them I wanted them to go on and ‘nil’ South Leicester and get five points – and they delivered, so I am really happy.
“Our half-backs controlled it well with the wind in our faces in the second half, Adam Howard was a man-mountain in the back row and Matt Lamprey showed his class at the end. I was also happy with the work of our substitutes.
“South Leicester had a lot of phases on our line, so it was a solid defensive performance to keep them out.”
The visitors set their stall out early on with sustained pressure on the Preston line, but it took the hosts only 10 minutes to open their account, Lamprey claiming the pushover try from a five-metre scrum after full-back Brad Cave was held up on the line.
Almost from the restart, they scored again with winger Connor Trueman producing a splendid break from one 22 to the other to set up Ally Murray’s gallop to the posts. Tom Davidson converted and Hoppers looked set for another try-fest.
But South Leicester dug in and kept their line intact before half-time, despite a scintillating run by Tyler Spence from turnover ball and a break by Davidson which should have borne fruit if he had fed the supporting Brad Cave. Even a yellow card for Hoppers lock Luke Procter couldn’t disrupt their defensive discipline and they even stole an attacking Leicester line-out close to the line.
The second half was something of a war of attrition against the elements, but the hosts quickly extended their lead with Lamprey charging over from close range. Davidson missed the conversion but soon made amends with a simple penalty.
Amid the usual flurry of substitutions, the last half-hour looked to be heading for stalemate as Hoppers defended fiercely against all South Leicester’s efforts and referee Michael Harris nullified some of their scrum domination with penalties.
But the last word went to that man Lamprey as the No 8 profited from more turnover ball to storm over from 25 metres for his hat-trick try and ninth of the season.