Hull Ionians 29 Fylde 31: Full report and reaction

Hat-trick hero Scott Armstrong

Hat-trick hero Scott Armstrong

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Fylde had played 16 away games in National League One and lost them all since their previous visit to the Ionians’ Brantingham Park in January of last year.

This season they have recorded some attractive and notable home victories, beating such high-flyers as Plymouth and Ampthill, to make the difference between their home and away form all the more puzzling.

This five-try win, hot on the heels of the home success against Coventry, made for a most welcome maximum haul of 10 points from two games at a time Fylde were looking anxiously over their shoulder.

The lead changed hands seven times in a rollercoaster game on Humberside, where Fylde triumphed thanks to a 72nd-minute try by flanker Evan Stewart on his return after two months out injured.

But the try-scoring headlines were grabbed by winger Scott Armstrong, who followed his three against the Ionians at the Woodlands in October with another hat-trick. No doubt the former Leeds Carnegie and Northampton player would like to play them every week!

Fylde began in the best possible way. A misdirected Ionians kick in thefirst minute was fielded by Armstrong and, after a couple more phases by his forwards, number eight David Fairbrother ploughed over for the opening try which fly-half Greg Smith converted.

Ionians’ own prolific tryscoring winger Sam Wilson got into the act after eight minutes.

Fellow winger Dan Tai Sen Chow started the move and Wilson finished it off smartly for his 10th try of the campaign. Centre Lee Millar converted the try to level the scores.

Tai was injured in the move and was replaced by fellow speedster Aquile Smith.

Almost immediately, Fylde regained the lead as Armstrong broke the defensive line for his opening try and Smith added the extras for a 14-7 advantage.

Millar reduced the deficit with a penalty, then Ionians took the lead at the end of the first quarter as Wilson’s second try was goaled by Millar.

It was then Fylde’s turn to exploit space when Armstrong grabbed his second try in the 26th minute. Smith missed the conversion but his side had their noses in front at 19-17.

Hull flanker James Stephenson was sinbinned and Fylde took advantage when Armstrong completed his hat-trick just before half-time, earning his side a bonus point in the process.

Smith converted and Fylde trooped off to the changing rooms with an encouraging 26-17 lead.

The Ionians raised their game to dominate possession and territory in the second half.

They reduced the gap immediately, when Aquile Smith darted over in the corner for his side’s third try. Millar missed the conversion from wide out but the gap was down to four points.

The game became more tense in the 46th minute, when Fylde’s Adam Lewis was sinbinned for what was judged a ‘no arms’ tackle and Ionians pressed deep in the visitors’ half.

Four minutes later Ionians took advantage when a collapsed scrummage led to a penalty try and with Millar’s conversion left the hosts 29-26 in front.

Fylde increased their intensity and effort as they dominated the last 15 minutes.

With man of the match Fairbrother at the heart of numerous attacks, they threw the kitchen sink at Ionians.

A lineout and driving maul in the 72nd minute proved conclusive as Stewart broke off the side and powered over for the try.

Smith was unable to kick the conversion but his side held out during the tense final 10 minutes to claim the victory.

Head coach Paul Arnold was delighted and relieved at the win, saying: “We are all delighted to have got that particular monkey off our back. It was a real dogfight in unpleasant conditions.

“The stakes were high and it certainly wasn’t pretty. This was the first leg of a relegation contest over two weeks. We face Blaydon in what will be another very tough contest at the Woodlands on Saturday, and if we win that we’ll have gone a long way to securing National One rugby for another season.

“The pack was excellent, with the backrow outstanding, particularly Fairbrother.

“There was plenty of leadership on the field, especially for the first 20 minutes, when we hardly had any possession and it was a back to the walls operation. “The guys defended tirelessly, including three or four driving mauls that were very dangerous.

“Then we worked our way upfield in the last 15 minutes and were able to get the crucial matchwinning try.”

Arnold expressed the sympathy of all at Fylde RFC towards Ionians physio Alan Silvester on the death of his five-year-old son, Theodor.

Fylde: Briers; Dorrington, Bedlow, Wilkinson, Armstrong; Smith, Dever; Wild, Burtonwood, Lewis, Gray, Turley, Stewart, Rogerson, Fairbrother. Replacements: Vernon, Bingham, Taylor, Loney, Lamprey.