A sixth straight loss but Preston Grasshoppers coach stays positive

Hoppers 13 Hull 18Preston Grasshoppers picked up their first point in six games – a losing bonus point – but could so easily have had three more on another frustrating afternoon.

Sunday, 8th December 2019, 11:18 am
Action from Hoppers' defeat by Hull (photo: Mike Craig)

Deservedly leading 13-3 in the first minute of the second half, they saw a resilient Hull side bounce back to record their third successive victory, as Hoppers fell to a sixth defeat in a row.

Head coach Paul Arnold remained remarkably upbeat in the face of his latest disappointment.

“That was a big improvement on the last few weeks,” he said. “We had chances in the first half that we should have finished off and everyone’s hurting. There are positives from the game. The lads showed heart, passion and workrate. But we have suffered from a ridiculous number of injuries and unavailability.

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“Matt Lamprey and Ally Murray had great games and James Gough looked good after so long out. We’ll keep fighting. We turned it round after a poor start last season – we’ll just have to do it a bit later this season.”

Hoppers made some early errors and could have conceded a try in the first 15 minutes, but winger Lee Birch lost his footing after a searing break and centre Stephen Johnson lost the ball over the line.

Fly-half Simon Hunberstone compensated with a 30-metre penalty.

That fired up Hoppers and great work by Lamprey and Scott Jordan took play right to the visitors’ line, where the ball was lost.

Nick Gregson has seen little rugby at fly-half – a problem position for Hoppers all season – but won praise from Arnold for moments of brilliance alongside less memorable contributions.

Gregson who opened his side’s scoring after missing a reasonably easy penalty. Sam Wallbank’s line-out catch and run set up Toby Harrison for a charge to the line and Gregson was on hand to touch down and add the conversion.

Twice more, Hoppers lost the ball in promising positions, including once on the line after fine efforts by Scott Jordan and James Fitzpatrick.

But with visiting lock Cameron Curry in the sin-bin for preventing quick release of the ball, Gregson took the half-time lead to seven points with a simple penalty.

He repeated the feat straight after the break when Hull were penalised under the posts – with the Prestonians feeling referee Ben Davis could have been even harsher on them.

But that only fired up the visitors for a typical second-half fightback.

A strong break and good handling put Johnson over for a try converted by Humberstone, who soon levelled the scores with a penalty after more spirited attacking.

What proved the decisive score came on 69 minutes, when strong-running Hull forwards paved the way for flanker Tom O’Donnell to crash over ion the corner for an unconverted try.

Humberstone could have deprived the hosts of their bonus point but missed a 35-metre penalty, before Hoppers messed up another couple of chances to salvage at least a draw.

So they remain next to bottom of National League Two North, eight points from safety outside the relegation zone, with two big pre-Christmas fixtures to come.