Fylde miss out in close encounter

Johnson - Fylde try-scorer
Johnson - Fylde try-scorer

Rosslyn Park, 20, Fylde 14

Fourth place edged out third in a tight and exciting National League One game played in difficult conditions at the Rock.

Fylde had inflicted Park’s first defeat in the first half of the season at the Woodlands in September and this was a similarly close encounter.

And although they were never in front, Fylde had chances up to the final whistle to pull off a relatively rare win in the capital.

The Rosslyn replacements included highly experienced fly-half or fullback Alex Davies on loan from London Welsh. Davies played under Fylde head coach Mark Nelson at Waterloo.

Dangerous Park winger David Vincent made the first break only for fine defensive work by the visitors to prevent a score.

As so often this season, Fylde suffered the early loss of a player to the sinbin. After three minutes Alex Loney, starting a league game for the first time since playing in the corresponding match two seasons ago, was shown a yellow card.

Park took immediate advantage with pressure on the Fylde line. Scrum-half Luke Carter fed flanker Mike Macfarlane, who drove over for the try. Fly-half Scott Sneddon added the conversion.

Fylde maintained parity until Loney’s return but the hosts increased their lead on 22 minutes, when Fylde spilled the ball on attack and home no.8 Hugo Ellis broke clear.

He linked with full-back Neville Edwards and Vincent was on hand to finish off with a good try. Once again Sneddon’s conversion was successful and things looked worrying for the visitors at 14-0.

But the Fylde players certainly didn’t let their heads drop, and in the 26th minute a superb break and offload by Paul Arnold set free full-back Warren Spragg, who sped to the line for the try of the game. Chris Johnson converted to halve the deficit.

Fylde were now warming to their task and, with Johnson orchestrating the backs, the pack was matching Park’s. Both sides made handling errors with the wet ball and heavy ground. The loose ball presented opportunities for both sets of backs, but the defences were top notch and the first half ended without a further score.

The second half was seven minutes old when Johnson launched a Fylde attack with a tap penalty. Typical combination play between backs and forwards resulted in Johnson cutting through for a good try. Last season’s England Counties skipper added the conversion to tie the scores.

From a strong Park scrummage in Fylde’s half, the visitors were penalised and Sneddon made no mistake with the penalty kick to make it 17-14 after 52 minutes.

A Rosslyn Park error led to a Fylde scrummage five metres from the home line, but resolute Park defence prevented a cruical score as replacement back Sam Bedlow was tackled into touch.

Fylde had the momentum as they pressed forward but Johnson’s drop goal attempt sailed just wide. Their attacks were repelled, and in the 76th minute Fylde were adjudged offside, Sneddon kicking the ensuing penalty for a 20-14 score.

He missed another penalty in the last minute of ordinary time before Fylde piled forward looking for a converted try to win the game in injury time. Once again the Park defence was rock-solid and yielded little.

Fylde head coach Mark Nelson said: “This was a very close game which for long stretches was a battle between the Fylde attack and the fine and well organised Rosslyn Park defence.

“I can’t fault the effort of all the players who gave everything in the club’s cause. We could have won the match but it just didn’t quite work out in this very physical game.

“The players certainly have benefited from a couple of weeks off and were in good spirits. We have played the top three clubs in successive away matches. I couldn’t easily separate Ealing Trailfinders, Coventry or Park. And, I believe, the Fylde squad is not far behind in ability.

“We have to improve our performances away from the Woodlands and could do with the rub of the green to achieve a few more away wins.”