Thirteen’s a lucky number for Arnold

Matt Frings after scoring a try against Kendal (photo: Mike Craig)
Matt Frings after scoring a try against Kendal (photo: Mike Craig)

Hoppers 87 Kendal 7

There was nothing unlucky about the number 13 for Preston Grasshoppers on Saturday as they demolished long-time rivals Kendal.

They went into the game defending a 13-match winning streak – and turned on a 13-try rout, despite being reduced to 13 men for a spell either side of half-time.

Reflecting on the biggest victory of the North Premier Division campaign to date, head coach Paul Arnold said: “Someone was going to get it sooner or later.

“I gave them a bit of a rocket after the Birkenhead Park game, warning against complacency, asking for consistency and stressing that we shouldn’t be trying to score at the first phase.

“I’m very proud of them – there was a lot of very, very good stuff. Even though we were 35-7 up at half-time, the lads’ heads were down a bit, having been given two yellow cards and given away a soft try. The challenge was to be ruthless and we were.”

Hoppers took the initiative from the very first scrum, shunting Kendal’s pack back many metres.

So, when the visitors had the put-in at a scrum on their own line, it was almost inevitable that they would be driven back over their own line for Matt Lamprey to touch down.

That was the first of three tries for the dynamic No.8, who went on to take his tally for the season to 22. But he was not the only hat-trick hero, with winger Niall Crosley and full-back Scott Jordan also bagging three each as Hoppers ran riot.

Crosley earned himself the man-of-the-match award after twice skinning defenders on the touchline for thrilling long-range scores.

Also on the try-scoring list were centres James Fitzpatrick and Alex Hurst, prop Pete Altham and flanker Matt Frings, with scrum-half Jake Squirrell adding 11 of the conversions.

Among a whole host of fine performances, Arnold singled out Altham as “outstanding” and said winger Tyler Spence also had a great game.

The only serious blemishes on a hugely satisfying afternoon for the table-toppers were those three yellow cards – for Crosley in first-half stoppage time, substitute Sam Gale two minutes later and Altham just before the final whistle.

Although they conceded Kendal’s only try while they had two men in the sin-bin – winger Kris Bratton latching on to a crosskick for a touchdown converted by Glen Weightman – Hoppers still managed one try early in the second half when at a two-man disadvantage and two scores while one player short.

It was a hugely impressive performance and extended their lead at the top to 22 points.