Chester 15 Fylde RU 51: Third half-century in four games for rampant Fylde
Fylde are the Jekyll and Hyde team of National Two North: after their home defeat by Hinckley, they put in an outstanding second-half performance at Chester, scoring five tries and 34 points to reach a half-century for the third time in four games.
This blitz also re-established second-placed Fylde’s nine-point advantage over Sedgley Park in third. They lost 32-11 away to runaway leaders Caldy and the unbeaten Wirral club are this Saturday’s visitors to Fylde.
This was the latest in a series of excellent away performances by Fylde and their ninth win in 12 games on the road this season.
They have especially enjoyed playing on the 4G artificial surfaces at Preston Grasshoppers, Stourbridge and now Chester, scoring 143 points in those three games.
The all-weather surfaces suit Fylde’s attacking style, though they stuttered in the windy conditions in the first half at Hare Lane.
They started well with a seventh-minute try. Fylde skipper Adam Lewis was the beneficiary when a Chester lineout on their 10-metre line went awry, pouching the loose ball to drive over for his third try of the season, converted by Greg Smith.
Chester hit back quickly, applying pressure and scoring themselves on 11 minutes. The Chester backs attacked wide and a clever ball put winger Max Himbury through a gap.
Fly-half Dan Pemberton missed the conversion, meaning Fylde still led 7-5.
Fylde’s execution was not quite on the button and errors reduced their normal attacking potency.
However, it all came together on 20 minutes, when they moved the ball left from a scrum on the Chester 22.
Centres Scott Rawlings and Connor Wilkinson combined well to make space for winger Tom Grimes to touch down in the corner, Smith firing his conversion attempt wide.
Although the weather worsened, Chester ran the ball at every opportunity and pressurised Fylde into conceding penalties. On the half hour, Pemberton converting one of these to reduce the deficit to 12-8.
On the stroke of half-time, Fylde scored a very important try to put some distance between the teams.
Recalled lock Olli Parkinson won clean lineout ball 15 metres out and an unstoppable driving maul produced a try for hooker Ben Gregory.
Again Smith was unable to add the extras but Fylde went into the changing rooms with a 17-8 lead. But when the Lancastrians have purple patches they appear quite irresistible and the second half was a perfect example.
From a scrum deep in his own half six minutes after the restart, number eight David Fairbrother made a superb break down the left.
Flanker Ben Vernon kept up with him to receive the pass and outpace the defence over 40 metres for Fylde’s bonus-point try in the left corner.
Three minutes later, Wilkinson made a typically devastating break down the middle to score near the posts. Smith’s second goal made it 29-8 and Fylde were striding clear.
Chester dominated possession and territory for a short while and in the 59th minute they scored a neat try through centre Sean Green, converted by Pemberton.
Smith stretched the lead to 32-15 with a penalty in the 66th minute before Fylde added three tries in a glorious final 12 minutes.
First a clever chip put full-back Tom Carleton in space to score his 21st try of the season, converted by Smith.
The mayhem continued two minutes later, when Wilkinson chipped neatly behind the Chester defence for winger Lex Botha to score.
And an unstoppable Fylde maul on 75 minutes ended unusually with centre Rawlings as last man up claiming the try, Smith’s fifth goal breaking the 50-point barrier in a match which saw him pass 200 points for the season.
Head coach Warren Spragg later tweeted: “Didn’t expect that second half! Great impact from the bench and desire to score tries.”
He said after the game: “We responded to the loss against Hinckley in the best way possible. We worked hard to go into half-time in front and then put in a great second half to rack up 50 points.
“It means we can look now forward to welcoming Caldy on Saturday with the challenge of being the team to break their unbeaten run.”
Without the distraction of a Six Nations weekend, Fylde hope the local rugby community will come out in force for what should be a classic battle of the top two.
FYLDE: Carleton; Botha, Wilkinson, Rawlings, Grimes; Smith, Lanigan; Horner (M Ashcroft 53), Gregory (Stephenson 68), Lewis (Horner 70), Parkinson (N Ashcroft N 50), Conner, Vernon, Mills, Fairbrother (Chapman 58); replacement not used: Briers.