Leicester Lions 8 Fylde RFC 32
FYLDE survived a gruelling first half to record a fifth straight win and stretch their lead at the top of National Two North to nine points.
With closest rivals Loughborough Students (at Kendal) and Westoe (at Harrogate) both frozen off, this victory over the fourth side in the breakaway group at the top leaves Fylde in an even stronger position, though they had to battle for the points.
The home side had the lion’s share of territory and possession in the first half, yet only led 5-3 at the break, and Fylde hit back with great spirit to score five second-half tries and seal yet another bonus-point win.
The much-changed Fylde pack struggled for ball in the first period, not helped by the loss of talismanic flanker Steve McGinnis after just 10 minutes with a recurrence of a troublesome hamstring injury.
The Lions, however, were reluctant to use their backs and repeatedly tried to bash it up the middle.
From such a driving maul came the opening try of the game after 15 minutes.
A Steve Collins penalty reduced the arrears 10 minutes later.
Apart from a short spell at the start of the second period, during which the Lions pressed on the Fylde line and Jon Boden kicked a penalty, Fylde monopolised the half.
After Collins broke near the Lions line, captain Sam Beaumont took over and drove over for the score, with help of front rower Alistair Livesey.
Collins hit the post with the conversion attempt, but Fylde were at least on equal terms.
After that, they never looked back.
A lovely piece of interpassing between backs and forwards saw centre Stephen Briers cut through under the posts to score for the second match running. Collins converted and Fylde had a 15-8 lead.
More pressure on the Lions line then saw scrum-half Craig Aikman nip over for a try. The conversion was missed, but the visitors had a 20-8 advantage.
Remembering the Lions’ dramatic late charge this season at the Woodlands, when they scored 12 points in the last five minutes to win the game, Fylde knew the visitors could not be written off.
However, they continued to attack as hooker Alan Holmes drove over from close range for his first try in an injury-hit season.
Indeed, the afternoon got even better for Fylde, as Holmes burst clear from 25 metres for his second try.
Collins’ third goal completed an outstanding day for the visitors, avenging last season’s 35-3 defeat on this ground.
The first half may have been unspectacular, but it was the gritty defence of the opening 40 which laid the platform for Fylde’s victory, which was all the more laudable with so many players unavailable. The tackling of the back row was feverish.
It leaves Fylde in buoyant mood ahead of second-placed Loughborough’s trip to the Woodlands on Saturday.