Fylde’s 2017-18 National One season ended where it began, with defeat against Cambridge. That September day must seem a long time ago to a young Fylde squad that lost 27 out of 30 games this season to finish 34 points adrift at the bottom of National One.
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But Warren Spragg and his coaching team have kept the squad positive, and the fact that the great majority of them have committed to the club in National Two next season is testimony to their team spirit and belief in Fylde’s attacking style.
And they gave a battling display to play their part in an entertaining contest on a gloomy day when nothing was at stake.
As so often, Fylde were always chasing this game after going behind 17-0 in the 25th minute.
The visitors started well but couldn’t capitalise on early pressure and Cambridge opened the scoring on 13 minutes, when loose-head prop Harry Morley forced his way over from close range. Fly-half Ben Penfold missed the conversion.
Archie Russell found space to touch down for the second try five minutes later, Penfold again unable to add the extras.
When Fylde attacked, possession would be lost to turnovers or penalties and Morley scored his second try from a driving maul, when it was third time lucky for Penfold.
Seventeen points down, Fylde spent the rest of the half deep in Cambridge territory but couldn’t turn possession into points.
Fylde’s commitment to running and passing rugby continued after the break and they were rewarded in the 47th minute with a 13th try of the season for top scorer Tom Carleton, converted by Greg Smith. The try followed a break and pass by 20-year-old outside back Lewis Pattison on his debut.
But within three minutes it was 22-7 as Morgan broke away from a lineout to complete his hat-trick with an unconverted try.
Referee Tom Davis then awarded Cambridge a penalty try on 59 minutes, when a driving maul collapsed following another lineout.
Fylde worked hard to ensure there was no further scoring in the final 20 minutes, despite seeing out 10 of them 14 men after Chris Briers was yellow-carded.
Spragg said: “We should have taken more out of the game. We kept possession for long periods, managed field position quite well and were sharper tactically than we have been for most of this season.
“Our skill level let us down when we had some clear scoring opportunities that could have changed the course of the game, and that’s one of the reasons we have finished where we are.
“It’s now time for the players to reflect and re-energise for the challenge of National 2 North. If we perform like we have for a lot of this season we will find next year extremely difficult, so it is important that the players come back as a better version of themselves and show that we have learned our lessons.”
The coaches and players will be determined to start the new campaign in National Two (North) with a bang. The shape of that division looks clearer after Saturday’s games, with Sale FC promoted to National One as champions and Sedgley Park making the play-off with a trip to Chinnor.
Peterborough beat Hull in their level five play-off to join Preston Grasshoppers and Birmingham Solihull in N2N.
Fylde: Wilkinson, Pattison (Foster 69), Briers, Fowden, Carleton; Smith (Carlton 69), Nicholls; Lewis, Gregory, Irving (Richardson 58), Garrod, Ashcroft (Pope 76), Corrie, Burtonwood (Harrison 78), Harrison (McCarthy 58).