Small margins cost Preston Grasshoppers says coach Paul Arnold

Action from Hoppers' defeat at Fylde (photo: Mike Craig)
Action from Hoppers' defeat at Fylde (photo: Mike Craig)

Fylde 33 Hoppers 17

Preston Grasshoppers showed their neighbours far too much seasonal generosity as they lost for the first time in December and saw Fylde climb into the top three in National League Two North.

Hoppers coughed up one interception try, another from a charged-down clearance and wasted five good attacking positions with lost line-outs.

But having seen his side 21-0 behind early in the second half, then get back to 26-17, head coach Paul Arnold said: “I was proud of our efforts to come back into the game. Our defence and discipline were good but the best team won.

“This result shouldn’t take away from our achievement – it’s been a great 12 months and a great December.

“It’s all about small margins. Fylde are a great line-out team and have some exciting backs – but they didn’t rip through us.”

Fylde were on the wrong end of referee Ben Rayner’s first-half penalty count, but the visitors couldn’t take advantage.

It was a different story at the other end when Fylde took the lead after 17 minutes; they won an attacking line-out, were held up on the line but found acres of space out wide from the five-metre scrum to put winger James Bailey over. Greg Smith converted.

Hoppers fly-half Tom Davidson hit the post with a long-range penalty and then the visiting fans watched in despair as a pass was picked off on halfway and Fylde No.8 Jacob Connor streaked away for another converted try.

Scrum-half James Gough was stealing a lot of ball for the visitors, but it was almost half-time before they threatened the home line for the first time, only to fall to Fylde’s cover defence near the corner. A clever cross-kick set up the position for Fylde’s third try six minutes after the break. They were awarded a five-metre scrum, then a penalty, with the ball worked wide from the line-out for full-back Tom Carleton to fly over in the corner.

Smith again converted but finally Hoppers roused themselves. For once, they secured line-out ball in the corner and centre James Fitzpatrick was driven over, with Davidson converting from touch.

Fylde hit back immediately and ex-Preston lock Matt Garrod secured the bonus point when he was first to the loose ball to score an unconverted try.

Hoppers cut the deficit to nine points with tries by prop Oga Mabaya and substitute threequarter Alex Ward. Both went unconverted. But it was Fylde who had the last word, with Alex Loney driven over from a line-out.

Smith added the conversion to gain ample revenge for his side’s defeat at Preston in September.