Match report: Leicester Lions 31 Fylde 41
Fylde were delighted to notch their first away league win since November and make it three wins out of four in National Two North this season.
If the game was rather chaotic, then it followed a difficult build-up as centre Chris Briers was a late injury withdrawal.
Adam Lanigan, with just a few second XV appearances behind him, started at scrum-half , with two equally inexperienced young players on the bench in Matthew Ashcroft and James Torkington.
Travel difficulties followed, with players having to make the 150-mile journey in a fleet of cars due to a coach problem.
The weather was gloomy too, with drizzle at times. But the much improved TMDP Park ground provided good facilities and an excellent surface. It was a shame that there weren’t more spectators present to watch the excitement, with the sides sharing 72 points.
Fylde raced out of the blocks and hit the hosts with two early tries.
In the first minute skipper Adam Lewis charged down a Lions clearance kick and won the race to the touch down.
This was followed in the fifth minute by a neat burst and try by full-back Tom Carleton. Fly-half Greg Smith missed the first conversion but nailed the second for a 12-0 lead.
The Lions, without a win so far, fought their way back into the match and Fylde suffered a blow in the 14th minute when skipper Lewis retired from the fray with a knee injury.
Matt Ashcroft replaced him at prop, joining hooker Ben Gregory and loose head Elliot Horner in Fylde’s youngest ever front row in a National League game, with an average age of 20.
With the visitors regrouping, the Lions took advantage and in the 18th minute powerful lock Ethan Godefroy forced his way over the line to open their account. Centre Harry Key added the extras.
Within a couple of minutes Fylde were back in charge when hooker Gregory touched down after a forwards’ surge.The conversion attempt drifted wide but Fylde had a 17-7 advantage.
Godefroy grabbed his second try to halve the deficit but Fylde came back again with 10 points before half-time.
Godfrey forced his way over for his second try on 34 minutes. This was converted by Smith, whose straightforward penalty in the final minute of the half made the score 27-12.
Godefroy notched his hat-trick try in the opening minutes of the second half but Harry Key was unable to convert.
Fylde then seized control with two critical tries. In the 49th minute, Henry Hadfield was on the end of a smart backs move.
Ten minutes later, replacement Tom Burtonwood scored a try direct from a lineout as he burst 20 metres to the line.
Both tries were converted by Smith and Fylde appeared well clear at 41-17, but as the Lions threw themselves into the fray the visitors’ discipline faltered.
In the 66th minute Burtonwood was sent to the sin-bin for a technical offence and Key scored his side’s bonus- point try three minutes later, converted by centre Max Titchener.
When Fylde number eight David Fairbrother was sent to join Burtonwood in the bin for a high tackle with 10 minutes remaining alarm bells began to ring.
The 13 men defended grittily to concede just one more try, scored by flanker Simon Johnson on 76 minutes.
Key’s conversion reduced the deficit to 10 but Fylde held on, with Gregory named man of the match.
With 87 points scored in their last two games, Fylde will be confident ahead of Sheffield Tigers’ first ever visit to the Woodlands on Saturday.
They will have to address their discipline as yellow cards were the main reason for Fylde’s only defeat so far at Preston and another reduction to 13 on Saturday could have been just as costly.
A major positive, though, is the squad’s strength in depth, with young players being given their chance and performing admirably.