Fylde 29, Jersey 27
FYLDE have built a reputation for entertaining rugby and the upbeat trend continued in the opening match of the National League One campaign.
They won a game that crackled with excitement and tension from end to end.
Fylde just clung on for victory in the face of a determined rally by Jersey, themselves newly-promoted and harbouring strong ambitions of their own.
Even with a 24-8 lead at half-time, Fylde could never feel assured of victory as Jersey gave it everything they had.
The visitors could even have won it when they were awarded a penalty after 75 minutes, 35 yards out and wide on the right. Michael Le Bourgeois missed and Fylde secured what could rightly be called a famous win.
On a day when Fylde fielded five newcomers, it was one of the longer-established players who stamped his mark – Nick Royle scored two tries, had a hand in another and made a saving tackle at a crucial point. The Briers brothers, Stephen and Chris, also made solid contributions and lock Gareth Rawlings caught the eye, particularly in the first half. Richard Kenyon was a thoughtful, inventive orchestrator in midfield.
Though Fylde gradually got on top in the first half after conceding an early try, Jersey showed their mettle in the second, pressing continually and making their rivals scrap every inch of the way.
To their credit, Fylde were not found wanting and it’s hard to see them having a sterner test all season, and although they gleaned the maximum five points there are still areas for fine-tuning.
Fylde made an inauspicious opening, conceding after only three minutes. They lost the ball against the head and fly-half Ross Broadfoot breached the home defence for a try which went unconverted.
Royle tried to respond with a piercing run that took him slicing through the Jersey defence, but the move broke down.
The try was not long in coming. After the Fylde forwards pounded the line, the ball was switched to centre Mike Waywell, who squeezed over near the posts, Kenyon’s conversion giving the home side the lead.
The advantage lasted less than two minutes as Michael Le Bourgeois landed a penalty.
Next it was Jersey who were penalised by referee Steve Lee and Kenyon restore Fylde’s lead at 10-8.
Touch judge saw Steve McGinnis use the boot illegally, though Fylde’s slender lead remained intact as Le Bourgeois’ long-range penalty sailed wide.
Oliver Brennand streaked down the right in trademark style, but he was short of room and put a foot in touch while in full-stride.
Fylde stretched their lead on 28 minutes with a smart try, created by a superb pass from Paul Arnold that created a big gap on the right.
Royle exploited this as he kicked ahead and won the race to the line. Kenyon landed an excellent conversion. Fylde looked in trouble on their own line, but won the ball against the head at a vital time.
Royle’s threatening run turned defence into attack in an instant and Fylde crossed again on 34 minutes.
Royle again provided the final flourish, though it was made possible by a wonderful pass by Kenyon that could hardly be bettered for all season.
Kenyon converted, to take the score to 24-8, then caused more disruption in the Jersey defence with an astute kick only for Guy Thompson to hack the ball behind the posts with Brennand lurking dangerously.
Jersey attacked purposefully at the outset of the second half, and Fylde’s defence was tested to the limit. Fylde held out well before Jersey scored after 47 minutes. Former Wales international Ben Evans fed No.8 Nicholas Tower, who powered past Josh Beaumont and Waywell to score. Le Bourgeois landed the conversion and Fylde’s lead was reduced to two scores, which left them with plenty of work left to do.
Fylde won a penalty in midfield and they made the most of it with a try, again with Royle at the centre of it all.
Released by a tremendous pass by Brennand, Royle kicked ahead. He looked to have been taken out twice off the ball but it did not matter as scrum-half Steve Depledge won the chase to the line.
The try was not converted and Fylde had little time to celebrate as Jersey scored straight from the kick-off.
Donovan Sanders ran through unimpeded, and although the conversion was missed it was very much game on entering the final quarter.
Fylde hit back but Brennand knocked as the Jersey line looked under threat. They went even closer minutes later – Arnold had seemed to do most of the hard work but spilled the ball over the Jersey line.
Royle was seen to great effect in defence, halting Edward Dawson on a dangerous run, but Fylde could not prevent flanker Thompson scoring after a succession of drives which followed a penalty against replacement Pete Altham for failing to release in the tackle.
Le Bourgeois converted and the game was on a knife-edge at 29-27.
The 100 supporters who had made the trip from Bergerac territory sensed victory when replacement Mark Stephenson was caught failing to release, but Fylde sighed with relief when Le Bourgeois’ penalty went wide.
Royle’s attempted kick-and-chase forced Jersey to cover frantically in a match that was a thrill-a-minute to the end.
Fylde: Royle; C Briers, S Briers, Waywell, Brennand; Kenyon, Depledge (Wallwork,70) Livesey (Griffiths, 70) Roddam, Loney (Altham, 57) Arnold, Rawlings, J Beaumont McGinnis (Stephenson,73) S Beaumont.