Scunthorpe 32 Fylde RFC 52: Tom Carleton scores hat-trick in flying start to league season

Fylde full-back Tom Carleton started the season with a hat-trick
Fylde full-back Tom Carleton started the season with a hat-trick

Fylde trod new ground when they visited Heslam Park to meet Scunthorpe RUFC on the opening day of the National Two (North) season, the first ever match between the clubs.

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The home side hit Fylde early and established a clear lead before the visitors settled into their typical attacking, free-running vein.

They were 14-20 down entering the second quarter but a devastating burst of five tries in 14 minutes running up to half-time determined the outcome of the game.

They were never going to lose from a position of 20-47 up at the break. Tom Carleton and Connor Wilkinson shared five tries between them in an excellent overall team effort which secured a maximum five-point haul

Scunthorpe started fast out of the blocks and immediately attacked deep in the Fylde half, full-back Paul Cook kicking a penalty to open the scoring in the second minute.

Fylde were penalised again in the eighth minute and a quick tap penalty resulted in skipper Tom Foster scoring the game’s first try. Cook’s conversion took the lead to 10-0 as Fylde looked initially off the pace.

This soon changed as a clever Fylde move created space for full-back Carleton to score under the posts. Greg Smith added the extras to reduce the deficit to 10-7.

As play switched ends once in the 15th minute, a Fylde player’s hand in the ruck gave deadeye Cook another opportunity to kick a penalty which extended the lead to 13-7.

In the 17th minute, Fylde took the lead for the first time when they went through a number of phases before winger Tom Grimes to dived over the line down the left. Smith’s conversion was spot to edge the visitors a point ahead.

It was the Greens’ turn to hit back and Cook showed he is more than just a kicker when he finished off a driving maul for his side’s second try and added the conversion. Back up the other end, visiting winger Lex Botha won a penalty at the breakdown in the 24th minute.

The penalty was taken quickly and Scott Rawlings put fellow centre Wilkinson through a gap to score. Smith converted and once more Fylde were ahead by 20-21.

Fylde were now flying and running the home side ragged. First Carleton notched his second try and then Wilkinson grabbed his brace by going over from close range. Smith converted both for a 20-35 advantage.

And still the tries came. In the 36th minute the Greens were penalised and Smith kicked for the corner. From the ensuing lineout, excellent handling involving forwards and backs ended with hooker Ben Gregory smashing his way over the line. Smith extended the lead to 20-42.

A minute from half-time the visitors cemented their dominance when Botha finished off another smart move. Smith missed for the first time with the conversion attempt but his side had a 20-47 advantage as the whistle blew for the break.

The second half began much like the first. Scunthorpe threw men forward and pressed deep in Fylde’s half.

The visitors gave three successive penalties away but the Fylde’s defence was up to the task and repelled the home attacks.

A period of stalemate followed, with Fylde head coach Warren Spragg calling up his replacements.

The Greens’ favoured tactic of using their powerful rolling maul was being fiercely resisted by the visitors, with numerous attacks thwarted.

Back rower Hal Chapman, making his league debut for Fylde, made a strong break and earned a penalty in front of the posts.

The easy goal was declined and Fylde went for an attacking scrummage. This was held up and the initial danger passed.

Both teams were guilty of handling errors and Fylde had Rawlings sinbinned for a high tackle in the 68th minute.

Being a man down initially made little difference as the ever opportunistic Carleton finished off another attacking move to grab his hat -trick try. Smith’s attempted conversion hit the upright, yet the 20-52 lead was conclusive.

Nevertheless, Scunthorpe heads didn’t drop and they roared back looking for a bonus point.

In the 78th minute their number eight Ben Hyde drove over for a try before a last-minute driving maul ended with tight head prop Oliver Cole claiming another, converted by Cook to wrap up the scoring.

Spragg had seen his side score a half-century in both warm-up matches and was delighted to see that repeated.

The Fylde boss said: “The lads had been in a confident mood since the performance against Hull Ionians last week but league rugby is a different challenge, especially away from home.

“It took us longer than I would have liked to get into the game but we responded well to rack up a lot of points before half-time and put the game out of reach.

“We’ve got some areas to work on as we move into next week’s derby and a difficult run of games afterwards, but we are well equipped to deal with those challenges and excited about testing ourselves.”

Fylde returned to Lancashire with the tasty prospect of a match against Preston Grasshoppers at the Woodlands on Saturday. Hoppers started the season with a 30-20 home defeat by Sedgley Park.

Fylde: Carleton, Botha (Brookes 62), Wilkinson, Rawlings, Grimes; Smith, Lanigan; Horner (Wild 62), Gregory (Loney 40), Lewis (c), Ashcroft, 5onner, Chapman, O’Ryan (Vernon 40), Fairbrother (Garrod 49).