Fylde 33, Nuneaton 5
FYLDE maintained their 12-point lead at the head of Division Two North with yet another bonus-point victory, but after the champagne rugby of the previous weeks this was certainly not vintage Claret.
Mark Nelson’s men took complete control but allowed their standards to slip after the break, when only faintly resembling top-of-the-table material.
In fairness, the match was effectively over as a contest by half-time as Fylde led 26-0, bolstered by a 31-minute hat-trick from second row Paul Arnold.
Mike Waywell scored one, while Oli Brennand got another at the start of the second half, after which Fylde fell away dramatically.
They failed to turn the screw, allowing Nuneaton most of the possession and territory in the second half, though they did little with it.
But it says something that Fylde can still win by five tries and four conversions to one try without playing to anywhere near their maximum potential.
Arnold will grab the lion’s share of the personal honours, though honourable mention should also go to centres Waywell and Stephen Briers, who performed above themselves.
Both sides started with commendable attacking intent, but it was Fylde who made the breakthrough after six minutes.
Richard Kenyon spotted and then exploited a gap before shipping the ball to Arnold, whose marauding run took him over the try-line.Sam Russell missed the conversion.
Lee Chapman missed a long-range penalty for Nuneaton, who were giving as good as they got in the opening 15 minutes, but Fylde threatened again when an attack instigated from deep by Brennand was halted with a forward pass by Kenyon.
Brennand’s chip forward only found the hands of a grateful Nuneaton defender and it was clear that Nuneaton would prove a tough nut to crack, with both sides sharp in the tackle.
Fylde had not been at their best in the opening half-hour but breached Nuneaton’s defences after 31 minutes.
Kenyon’s penalty kick to touch paid dividends as Fylde took a clean catch at the lineout and hit Nuneaton with a strong rolling maul, Arnold claiming the final touch.
Russell was successful with his conversion from wide out to give Fylde a 12-0 lead.
Chapman misdirected another penalty chance 90 seconds later and soon found himself backtracking and kicking for touch when Russell pinned his side back with a kick and chase.
Fylde again won the line-out and the same rolling maul routine produced Arnold’s hat-trick try on 37 minutes.
Russell goaled to make it 19-0, and although Fylde had had to work hard for this advantage Nuneaton were now making errors and conceding penalties.
As the clock ticked into over-time, Fylde claimed the try of the half when Kenyon made a searing break and defied all attempts to lay a finger on him before switching the ball neatly to Waywell, who ran straight and over the try-line.
Russell goaled and Fylde made the perfect start to the second half, scoring within two minutes.
Flanker Alistair Sutherland forced Nuneaton into a retreat from which they never recovered as the ball was shipped along the line for Brennand to sprint in at the corner. Russell duly converted a satisfying try.
Fylde failed to maintain that kind of impetus as the contest became scrappy. A comedy of mishandling errors ended with Arnold kicking ahead and Kenyon attempted in vain to capitalise as Fylde scented another try.
But it was Nuneaton who claimed the next score as a simple try from centre Elliott Brown went unconverted.
By this point, Craig Aikman had come on for Fylde at scrum-half, with Wallwork going to full-back and Jason Robinson to the wing in place of Russell
Though home and hosed, Fylde allowed sloppiness to creep into their play for 20 minutes dropped pass by Kenyon gave Nuneaton a scrum in a threatening position.
Fylde then had Grant Ferguson yellow-carded for infringing at a ruck, but within a couple of minutes Nuneaton were also reduced to 14 men when flanker Andrew Dockray was sin-binned.
Too much of the game was being played in Fylde’s half in an anticlimax of a second period, though Jack Ward made an impact off the bench when he jolted Nuneaton back. Jonny Roddam, another replacement, made an eye-catching burst along the left touchline.
Brennand excited the crowd with a jinking, high-speed run but the ball went to ground.
Consistent excellence is not easy to achieve in such a hectic season and Fylde had squeezed maximum points from this seventh straight win ... and that is entirely sufficient.
Fylde: Robinson; Russell (Aikman) Briers, Waywell (Ward) Brennand; Kenyon, Wallwork; Livesey (Thoma) Holmes, Altham (Lavelle) Arnold, Wells, Ferguson, Sutherland (Roddam) Beaumont.