Fylde 14 Leicester Lions 13: Nine games unbeaten after a nervy win
Fylde stretched their unbeaten run to nine games with a 14-13 victory against Leicester Lions at the Woodlands on Saturday.
After racing into a 14-0 lead within the first 15 minutes they were – in the end – perhaps somewhat fortunate to limp over the line by a single point as they lost their shape and struggled for fluency.
Only a penalty miss that would have given Leicester the lead and the fact Fylde defended like men possessed and found some semblance of their former selves in the last 10 minutes enabled them to see the game out.
Leicester had kicked off and, immediately, Jacob Conner picked a great line to burst through the away defence.
That attack was snuffed out but, a minute later, the ball was spun wide and Connor Wilkinson put in a deft chip with Tom Carleton speeding through, kicking the ball onwards and notching his 14th try of the season.
Greg Smith converted and Fylde had an early 7-0 lead which they doubled minutes later.
Having stood firm against the Lions’ first real pressure, a Smith penalty to touch gave Fylde a great opportunity on the Lions’ five-metre line.
Matt Garrod secured possession and a driving maul was set up.
Just when it looked like the Lions had dealt with this, Adam Lewis caught them unawares by breaking off and carried the last defender over with him to touch down.
Smith again converted and Fylde were scoring at better than a point a minute as they led 14-0.
The next 10 minutes belonged to Fylde as they looked to be on a roll.
A knock-on halted momentum after another excellent line break before a high ball caused chaos and Tom Grimes took the final pass five metres out, only to lose the ball when a try looked highly probable.
It seemed Fylde had the Lions stretched and a further score was inevitable but their play became unstructured, rather aimless and all their fluency seemed to desert them.
They gave away four penalties between the 29th and 33rd minutes, allowing the Lions to camp on Fylde’s line before Harry Key kicked the last one to get them on the board at 14-3.
This period of play was the start of a long and turgid spell for Fylde who just could not seem to get going again.
The half ended with the Lions pressing on the home line, only to knock on, and Fylde were glad to get into the dressing room and look to regroup.
With head coach Warren Spragg unavailable, Dan Orwin and Alex Loney were in charge and it was no surprise that Loney’s first act was to introduce himself to the fray as Conner made way, having taking a knock in the first half.
Fylde’s search for fluency was not helped when Olli Parkinson was stretchered off with a knee injury only three minutes into the second half.
That was almost immediately compounded by scrum-half Cameron Crampton having to retire for the day due to a tight hamstring.
Nick Ashcroft came on to replace Parkinson and a reshuffle saw Carleton at scrum-half, Ralph Dowds at centre and Wilkinson at full-back.
In the circumstances it was perhaps no surprise that Fylde struggled to re-establish their own brand of play or impose themselves on the game.
On 52 minutes Fylde were penalised for not releasing in the tackle and Key kicked the penalty to make it 14-6.
Four minutes later, a Fylde lineout throw went horribly awry and the Lions spun the ball wide quickly.
With the Fylde backline not adjusting from an attacking set-up to defensive mode in time, space was created for the Lions’ winger Devon Constant, who nonchalantly strode around one and through another defender and raced round to the posts.
Key converted and suddenly Fylde’s lead was down to a single point.
On the hour mark, a high tackle gave Key a chance to nudge the Lions in front but his fairly simple 40-yard attempt drifted wide.
Fylde’s defensive efforts were sufficient to frustrate any further clear scoring attempts for the Lions, and as the game entered the final 10 minutes, the pressure told on the away team with knock-ons affecting their fluency as well.
A penalty allowed Smith to pin the Lions inside their own 22 as some sort of attacking structure, belief and purpose reappeared, while line breaks and sustained possession took time off the clock.
A late scrum on their five-metre line then meant the Lions had two minutes to travel 95 metres for a winning score.
Although, they secured the ball and went through six phases, one last knock-on brought the game to an end.
Fylde: Carleton, Hadfield, Briers, Wilkinson, Grimes, Smith, Crampton, Conner, O’Ryan, Corrie, Garrod, Parkinson, Lewis, Gregory, Lewis. Replacements: Ford, Ashcroft, Loney, Bailey, Dowds.
Leicester Lions: Titchener, Benjamin, Hamilton, Key, Constant, Lewis, Smit, Godefroy, Murdoch, Johnson, Sumpter, Tapscott, Ali, Taylor, Roberts. Replacements: Spokes, Weaver, Gonsalves, Aviss, Leonard.