Loughborough 17 Fylde 35

Fylde Rugby v Ealing
Fylde Rugby v Ealing

Fylde turned in one of their best away performances of the season to record their first ever league win at Loughborough Students.

They have suffered three defeats in recent seasons at the University Stadium, twice conceding more than 40 points in the process.

In December the Students edged a close game at the Woodlands 11-9 and denied Fylde a try for the first time in 92 matches.

So the visitors’ dominating second half performance, led by skipper and Loughborough alumnus Evan Stewart, was notable and they duly celebrated at the final whistle.

Fylde took a rather changed pack due to injured and unavailable players. With forwards Alex Loney, Gareth Rawlings, Roger Banks, Sam Beaumont, Harrison Collins, Steve McGinnis and Josh Beaumont ruled out, the players who travelled to the Midlands responded in fine style.

Fylde, with the benefit of a strongish wind behind them, opened brightly and launched a number of attacks. Many of winger Oli Brennand’s 19 tries this season have been long range, dashing affairs but not this time. In the 10th minute, Fylde broke down the blindside and when the ball bobbled loose Brennand caught it and touched down for his 20th try of the season.

Fly-half Chris Johnson converted for a 7-0 lead.

Even at this stage, Fylde had a clear advantage in the scrummages, pushing back the Students forwards and generally making life difficult.

Line-outs were not as comfortable for the visitors. However, in the 17th minute a Loughborough player offended and Johnson converted the penalty to make it 10-0.

Referee Wayne Falla sinbinned the Students flanker James Freeman in the 18th minute and four minutes later Fylde lock Simon Griffiths suffered the same fate. Johnson punished more home indiscipline in the 26th minute by converting another penalty.

Freeman returned and the Students took advantage when their no.8 Sam Heygate forced his way over for the try.

Fly-half Andy Hall converted this chance and the deficit was reduced to 7-13. The game closed up in the 32nd minute when Hall scored a neat try for a 12-13 scoreline. It remained like this until the interval. The visitors started the second half most positively and within a minute had extended their lead with a deserved try by flanker Cameron Thompson. Johnson converted to extend the advantage to 20-12.

Thompson’s fellow flanker Ben Verno also had an excellent first period but was replaced by another promising young player, Danny Maher. By this time, Fylde had also lost centre Stephen Briers, who suffered a serious and deep gash to his thigh which has prematurely ended his season. Scott Barrow stepped up off the bench to add his experience to Fylde’s cause.

Loughborough struck back immediately when their forwards powered towards the Fylde line. Tighthead prop Akinbly Alo was driven over and, although Hall missed the conversion, his side were in contention again at only 17-20 in arrears. But the rest of the half was controlled by the visitors. In the 50th minute Johnson kicked his third penalty to edge further ahead.

Four minutes later Fylde made the crucial score as they pressured the Students’ line and prop Peter Altham drove over to claim the touchdown on his 101st appearance for the club. Johnson added another conversion to extend Fylde’s advantage to 30-17.

In the 67th minute, Fylde applied the coup de grâce when they launched another offensive on the Students’ line.

From a scrummage, scrum-half Ryan de la Harpe went down the blindside and powered towards the line. He was held up short but extended his arm and got the touchdown. Chris Johnson missed the ensuing kick. There was more drama in the 75th minute as Students prop Alo was red carded for foul play.

Fylde: C Briers; Rath, S Briers, Waywell or Barrow, Brennand; Johnson, De La Harpe; Birchall, Roddam, Altham, Griffiths, Arnold, Thompson, Vernon, Stewart. Replacements: Lavelle, Burtonwood, Maher, Wallwork, Barrow.