Luctonians 25 Fylde RFC 27: Leaders are forced to battle for away day victory
Fylde maintained the leadership of National Two (North) with a narrow 27-25 victory against a determined and very competitive Luctonians squad at Mortimer Park.
The home team belied their 15th position in the division with a good performance and Fylde were thoroughly tested by Lucs’ forwards and backs.
Fylde’s only previous visit to Mortimer Park was in their promotion-winning campaign in 2010-11 when Lucs won 26-19.
It looked initially as this might be a case of déjà vu when Lucs started strongly, pinning the visitors back in their own half despite losing hooker Guy Kirkby through a yellow card in the 11th minute.
This seemed to matter little as, in the 16th minute from a Lucs scrummage on the Fylde 22, the home forwards battered their way towards the line before shifting the ball right along their backs.
The Fylde defenders were sucked in and a long pass gave winger Seb Robinson plenty of space and time to score near the corner.
Louis Silver’s attempted conversion drifted wide but his side had a 5-0 lead.
With the Fylde defenders incurring the disapproval of referee George Richardson, Lucs continued to press inside the visitors’ half with Silver landing a penalty to make it 8-0.
Fylde finally got into their rhythm with their running and passing game and, in the 28th minute, opened their account.
From a ruck on the Lucs’ 22, a neat short pass by fly-half Greg Smith put Connor Wilkinson through a gap.
The defence caught him in time but with the visiting forwards in support, a few phases later, Matt Ashcroft drove over from close range.
From the restart kick, Fylde took the lead as a clean catch on their 22 saw the ball moved to full-back Joe Carpenter, who made a half-break.
From the subsequent ruck, Greg Smith found Ben Gregory, who cut a lovely line down the middle of the pitch and sidestepped a defender or two with alacrity.
As the chasing defence closed in, Gregory popped a subtle overhead pass to the supporting Smith, who sprinted under the posts from 40 metres for a delightful try and added the extras for a 12-8 lead.
Fylde continued to concede penalties and this gave the Luctonians pack opportunities to hit back with good lineout work and powerful scrummaging.
On the stroke of half-time, a clever grubber kick behind the Fylde defence by Rob Bengry was fielded a couple of metres from the line.
The ball was turned over and Frank Kelly got the touchdown, Silver converting to give Lucs a 15-12 lead at the interval.
Fylde head coach Warren Spragg freshened up the pack for the second half with Adam Lewis and Jacob Conner introduced to the fray.
The visitors came out of the traps quickly and, a couple of minutes in, re-established the lead.
Smith found the ever-dangerous Gregory just inside the Lucs’ half, where he once again cut a brilliant line and raced clear before linking with lock Nick Ashcroft, who sprinted to the line, Smith converting for a 19-15 lead.
Two minutes later, Fylde were again deep in Lucs’ half as they went through a number of phases close to the line.
As the ball was worked into the left corner, Gregory turned from creator to scorer as he drove over from short range for the bonus point try.
Smith’s conversion from wide out drifted past the posts but his side had a 24-15 advantage.
In the 54th minute, Luctonians hit back with a Silver penalty to reduce their deficit to six points.
It was time for pragmatic rugby from Fylde if they were to secure the victory and, in the 71st minute, Smith landed a penalty for a 27-18 lead.
In the final minute, Luctonians won another penalty and Silver opted to kick the goal to secure a losing bonus point.
His kick hit the post but bounced back for Kelly to gather and touch down.
This time, Silver’s kick was good but the final whistle blew with the Lancastrians securing five league points and hanging on to the narrowest of leads in the table.
Fylde now turn their attention to the visit of another club in the wrong half of the table, Hull RUFC, to the Woodlands on Saturday (3pm).
Fylde: Carpenter; Carleton, Wilkinson, Rawlings, Grimes; Smith, Lanigan (Forster 71); Horner, Gregory, M Ashcroft (Lewis 40), Parkinson (Conner 40), N Ashcroft, Chapman, Vernon, Fairbrother (O’Ryan 64). Non-playing replacement: Drew Stephenson.