Preston Grasshoppers had to show both sides of their rugby character to extend their unbeaten run to eight games – do-or-die defence and destructive attacking flair.
Starved of possession in the first half, they still kept a determined Pocklington side at bay and managed to break out for two tries. They then added six more in a much more dominant second period to take their table-topping North Premier League record to seven wins and a draw.
Head coach Paul Arnold said: “I gave them a bit of a rocket at half-time and they reacted well. We had overplayed things a bit and kicked possession away.
“Pocklington had made it very difficult by keeping it tight and we weren’t smart enough. But they tired in the second half and we got back to our game plan. We are still building.”
Surrounded by a lot of experience, especially in the pack, Arnold has been pleased by the impression made by some of the youngsters who have come in lately and said: “Alex Ward is looking good at fly-half and, for an 18-year-old hooker, Connor Johnson was very pleasing.”
Although full-back Scott Jordan gave them the lead with a try converted by Jake Squirrell, after 10 minutes, following a line-out and forward rumble, Hoppers were on the back foot for most of the next half-hour. But Pocklington were constantly thwarted on the line by heroic defence and, on a rare excursion upfield by the hosts, Squirrell kicked a simple penalty.
Lock Chris Roddy gave the half-time score an unexpected gloss with a late try after a powerful run and well-timed pass by prop Peter Altham, making his 100th first-team appearance.
It took just 45 second of the second half for Hoppers to extent their lead when Sam Stott raced over from a break by fellow centre James Fitzgerald. Squirrell converted and Hoppers were soon back on the offensive, with wing Niall Crossley halted on the line after burning off two other defenders. Moments later, a tap penalty saw Altham crash over from close range for a try which helped seal his man-of-the-match award.
No 8 Matt Lamprey had been making devastating inroads all afternoon and added his ninth and tenth tries of the campaign in quick succession with unstoppable charges from 10 metres out.
Squirrell converted the first and, as Pocklington’s resistance totally crumbled, flanker Owen Jackson was sinbinned for illegally preventing Altham getting away a scoring pass on the line, then referee Thomas Hurdley awarded Hoppers a penalty try as Lamprey looked certain to complete his hat-trick with a pushover try before again being unfairly impeded.
Pocklington mounted once last fruitless effort, although it did lead to a yellow card for Fitzpatrick for a high tackle, before Jordan brought up the half-century after the visitors turned over the ball in attack and Lamprey launched the counter-attack.
Squirrell converted to round off Preston’s last home game for a month – two away dates are followed by a blank weekend before second-placed Lymm come to Lightfoot Green in what could be a very important fixture.