Fylde RFC 33 Loughborough 7: Students given a lesson as Fylde stay top.

David Fairbrother on the charge for Fylde against Loughborough Students
David Fairbrother on the charge for Fylde against Loughborough Students

Fylde put in another impressive performance to maintain their one-point lead at the top of National Two North.

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The hosts started in blistering form, dominating the first half, and although the Student responded strongly in the second period they never threatened a comeback.

And Fylde emphasised their superiority with a fifth try in the final minute.

Fylde ran the ball from everywhere and opened the scoring on four minutes.

They attacked down the left and Scott Rawlings did what the thing he does best: charging into defenders, staying on his feet and offloading.

This time the ball reached winger Tom Grimes and he raced down the left touchline to score with ease. Fly-half Greg Smith nailed the conversion.

Fylde kept up the pressure and from a penalty kicked to the corner, flanker Jacob Conner scored his first try of the season from a driving maul.

Smith kicked a fine conversion from near the touchline to make it 14-0.

There was no let-up as Fylde attacked remorselessly, and after driving the Students off their own ball at a scrum, number eight David Fairbrother picked up to score by the posts, Smith again converting.

Half an hour had been played before Loughborough earned a penalty and kicked for the corner. However, the throw to the 6’8” lock Cameron Boon wasn’t straight and the chance was lost.

Back roared Fylde and hooker Ben Gregory broke from halfway only to be caught by the last defender with players outside him.

But leading 21-0 at half-time, Fylde could reflect on a pretty dominant half in which they might have scored two or three more tries.

Loughborough made changes and began the second half much more purposefully, prompted by replacement scrum-half Jonathan Law.

The Fylde defence held strong but this was much more like the familiar Loughborough running game.

Fylde rang the changes too, with dual-registered Sale Sharks winger Tom Roebuck introduced and Tom Carleton switched to scrum-half in place of Adam Lanigan. Tom Forster came on at centre for Rawlings, though Fylde were disrupted by injuries to Jacob Conner and Fairbrother, who later returned.

It wasn’t until the 55th minute that Fylde exerted serious pressure again as Smith chipped to the left corner from a scrum but Grimes couldn’t pull off a tricky catch.

Referee Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts had already signalled for a Fylde penalty, and from the subsequent lineout and maul skipper Adam Lewis drove over for his second try of the season. Smith’s only unsuccessful goal attempt of the afternoon veered wide.

Head coach Warren Spragg used the maximum 10 interchanges and gave game-time to all the replacements.

Lanigan returned to the fray in place of another Sale player, full-back Joe Carpenter, who had shown a quality of side-stepping not seen on the ground since Jason Robinson played in 2010-11.

The Loughborough squad fought back gamely and in the 69th minute gained their deserved reward when winger Will Brown skated through a rather static home defence to score near the posts. Fly-half Owen Waters converted for a 26-7 scoreline.

Fylde were to have the last laugh as a loose ball near the halfway line was hacked over the Loughborough try-line and the speedy Roebuck beat a retreating defence to touch down just before the ball could roll dead. Smith’s conversion from wide out completed the scoring.

Caldy crushed bottom club Scunthorpe 68-7 but could not replace Fylde at the top, though the Cheshire club have a game in hand which is not due to be played until late February.

Spragg said of his side’s display: “I thought we were outstanding in the first 15 minutes and some of the ball movement and speed of support was the best we have produced so far this season.

“We were disappointed to miss a few more scoring opportunities before half-time that would have put the game out of reach but we did enough to keep a good Loughborough side at bay and dominate most of the game.

“Greg Smith deserved the man of the match award but it could easily have gone to Ben Gregory, Adam Lewis or second rows, Nick Ashcroft or Olli Parkinson, who all had fantastic games.”

FYLDE: Carpenter (Lanigan 58); Carleton, Wilkinson (Rawlings 73), Rawlings (Forster 40), Grimes; Smith, Lanigan (Roebuck 40); Horner (M Ashcroft 55), Gregory (Stephenson 73), Lewis, N Ashcroft, Parkinson, Conner, Vernon (Fairbrother 57), Fairbrother (Chapman 47).