High scoring finale for Fylde

Fylde Rugby Club v Old Albanians at the Woodlands Ground, Ansdell.'Joseph Robinson on the wing.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'26-4-2014
Fylde Rugby Club v Old Albanians at the Woodlands Ground, Ansdell.'Joseph Robinson on the wing. PIC BY ROB LOCK'26-4-2014
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Whenever these two sides collide, there’s never a shortage of points...

After this result and the 45-41 scoreline in Fylde’s favour in the corresponding fixture at the start of the season, that’s 166 points in the two matches – so no-one can say they have been short-changed.

The match at the Woodlands on Saturday marked the close of the National League One season, and as the scoreline will testify it went out with a bang – not least for Stephen Briers, who marked his final match for Fylde before retirement by scoring a try.

The touchdown in the 69th minute was the last act of a distinguished career.

Briers got a warm ovation as he trotted off, and it was one that was repeated in the post-match reception he got from the appreciative crowd following the final whistle.

This was not quite as convincing a victory as it looked on paper, even though Fylde helped themselves to no fewer than eight tries.

Indeed, when Old Albanian had pulled back the deficit to just 10 points in the 51st minute there must have been a few furrowed Fylde brows.

But Fylde steadied themselves and emerged worthy winners, the Briers’ try providing the icing on the cake.

What an outstanding servant he has been, fair to say a player’s player who always gives 100% and a lot of often unheralded, though not it must be said by his appreciative team-mates.

Ryan De La Harpe was at the hub of everything for Fylde with his inventive, lively play from scrum-half, while Oli Brennand, who scored two tries, was a dangerous runner whenever he got the ball.

Fylde took on early lead on four minutes, Evan Stewart making a swift break from the base of the scrum and the move ended with Paul Arnold crashing over and Chris Johnson making the conversion.

Old Albanian hit back with a penalty from fly-half Johannes Lombard and the Fylde line was breached when lock Ross Hamilton burst through to score, a try easily goaled by Lombaard as Old Albanian took a 10-7 lead.

But Fylde struck back with a fine try, created by a superb, mazy break by winger Oli Brennand, who jinked this way through before unloading to Warren Spragg and he finished it off. Johnson landed a belting conversion from wide out to make it 14-7.

Fylde scored again after the visitors’ flanker Billy Johnson had been yellow carded, with skipper 
Stewart squirming over from close range and Johnson adding the goal points to make it 21-10 after 25 minutes.

On 36 minutes, Fylde registered their fourth try and the bonus point as Spragg dived over on the short side after a canny pass from the scrum by De La Harpe. Johnson added yet another towering conversion from wide on the right, stretching the advantage to 28-10.

Fylde concluded the first half with a score instigated by Arnold, who grappled successfully for the ball in midfield. The ball was switched to the right wing and Spragg unleashed Chris Briers, who just made it to the line. Johnson missed his first conversion of the contest, but Fylde led 33-10 at half-time.

Mis-handling at the start of the second half led to an early Old Albanian try by full-back Nathan Earle, which went unconverted.

Five minutes later, it was very much game on as the powerful Earle who again bulldozed his way over on the right wing. The conversion was missed, but at 33-20, the warning signs were starting to flash for Fylde. Old Albanian were on a roll after the lead was pegged back to just 10 points when, with the wind behind him, Lombaard landed a penalty.

However, Old Albanian were reduced to 14 men when lock Maro Itoje was sin-binned as Fylde forced a scrum close to their rivals’ line.

Fylde made the most of the advantage and gave themselves much-needed respite as Brennand squeezed over.

With Johnson missing the kick, Fylde’s lead was 38-23.

Fylde made it try number seven after Ollie Viney and Johnson penetrated deep into the heart of the Old Albanian defence, the attack finished off by De La Harpe.

Briers made his mark in his final match for the club when e glided his way neatly through the defence for as fitting a try scored at the Woodlands for many a year. Johnson added the goal points to bring up the half-century of points.

Old Albanian scored a consolation try through Itoje, goaled by Lombaard on 76 minutes, the final act to bring the curtain down on an entertaining season.

Fylde: Viney: Spragg, C Briers, S Briers (Barrow, 70) Brennand; Johnson, De La Harpe (Webb, 75); Birchall, Burtonwood (Rylance, 65) Griffiths (Wild, 70) Arnold, Gore (Maher, 75) Stewart, Vernon, Robinson.