Loughborough Students 28 Fylde RFC 32: Resisting hosts’ retaliation in second half

After taking a 19-0 lead in 15 minutes, they had to resist a fierce riposte in the second half and see a nervous 10-minute final.

After a deluge of rain, the weather became milder and the match was played in dry conditions with only a mild wind.

The artificial pitch provided a firm playing surface and Fylde played against a team with a style very similar to theirs, keen to keep the ball running as much as possible.

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Fylde started at a pace and level of precision that threatened to dominate the home team.

With just three minutes on the clock, the phased play allowed Henry Hadfield to rush into the right corner and put the ball on the ground under heavy traffic.

That 5-0 lead became 12-0 after eight minutes when a handsome turn-around in Ben O’Ryan’s tackle saw Hadfield take the ball and feed Tom Forster.

He grabbed the last man and slipped the ball to Matt Sturgess, who showed off a clean pair of heels to get past the cover defense and point under the posts, Greg Smith converting.

Fylde increased his lead to 19-0 in the 13th minute when prolific Tom Carleton ended good work from Tom Grimes on his 19th try of the season, giving Smith another easy conversion.

Loughborough found his place in the game, forcing a penalty that led to a five-yard lineout.

Fylde defended him well and the Loughborough hooker, in his frustration, passed the aggression threshold and was given a yellow card, allowing Fylde to clear.

Nonetheless, Fylde shot himself in the foot when they got another penalty but, rather than clearing, they opted to tap and run from their own 22s.

A pass fell to the ground, Loughborough jumped in and Nic Jacobsen jumped in for a try, transformed by Luca Caplin, to leave Fylde 19-7 at halftime.

Fylde started the second half well and increased his lead in the 43rd minute as Sturgess made his second try, Smith converting, while the bonus point was also in the bag with them 26-7 ahead.

However, the afternoon was going to become anything but comfortable for them.

In the 47th minute, Loughborough put his young muscles to work again and forced Fylde to concede a few penalties.

That left them once again defending a five-yard roster, but on this occasion they weren’t able to cancel it.

Dave Aniebonam was smuggled in for the trial, converted by Caplin, and the lead was reduced to 26-14.

Loughborough has now had his best of the game and has stepped up the pressure on Fylde with solid midfield breaks and quick recycling stages.

This stretched Fylde’s defense and created a large space for George Barber to score a 50th-minute try, again converted by Caplin.

The students were suddenly one try from Fylde at 26-21 before Smith picked up a penalty three minutes later to make it 29-21.

A long-distance break from Sturgess saw a move ultimately choked before a catch-and-drive chance was also canceled out by the local defense.

Loughborough came back up the field before Fylde was reduced to 14 men in 65 minutes when Scott Rawlings was deemed too tough to enter the maul.

Five minutes later, Fylde had to call as Sam Blade’s midfield break ended with a long pass for Dan James to score.

Alex Wainwright converted and reduced Fylde’s lead to 29-28 with 10 minutes left.

The final stanza was hotly contested, with both teams knowing that any mistake, indiscretion or missed tackle could decide the game.

Jacobsen paused in the middle, only for a punch to allow Fylde to breathe again.

Smith’s drop-goal attempt drifted widely, and as the tension mounted, Fylde kept the ball as they remained stuck inside the opponent’s half.

The students desperately tried to force a crucial turnover but were penalized in their attempts to do so.

Jack Shine was yellow carded and Fylde forced a final penalty that Smith scored to end the scoring.

With no time left, a hotly contested fifth away win of the season finally came to an end and everyone associated with Fylde was able to take a breath.

Loughborough Students: Wainwright, Sanders (Daniel), Blade, Langston, Barber, Caplin, Petrozzi (Burgwin), Philipson, Aniebonam, Toms (Rowntree), Atuanya, Adlington, Jennings (Bell / Shine), Tunney, Jacobsen.

Fylde RFC: Forster, Grimes, Carleton, Rawlings, Hadfield, Smith, Sturgess, Ashcroft (Higgins), Gregor, Kyle-Clay (Bowker), Parkinson, Garrod (Blake), O’Ryan, Fairbrother. Non-player replacements: Lanigan, Partington.

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