Fylde 31, Stourbridge 21
THERE’S never a dull moment when Fylde are around, as this end-to-end match underlined.
And it also proved, yet again, that nothing can be taken for granted in National League One, and every point has to be earned.
For most of the match, Stourbridge gave as good as they got, pushing Fylde to the maximum.
Fylde overcame the handicap of having three players yellow-carded, so they had to dig deep to win this contest by five tries to three.
It was, fiercely – yet fairly – competed and both sides deserve congratulations for their contributions to make it an outstanding, full-throttle 80 minutes.
Fylde won through, thanks to a combination of grit and guile.
If they had to be resolute in defence, their attacking and support play helped see them through in accomplished manner.
The bulk of their tries came from inventive, open rugby, backed up by commendable skill and running power.
Richard Kenyon proved an effective play-maker in midfield, while there was some thoroughbred running – and steely tackling – from centre Mike Waywell.
Evan Stewart put in a magnificent shift in the pack, alongside Gareth Rawlings and the Beaumont brothers, Sam and Josh. The Briers brothers, Chris and Stephen, did more than their share too.
Fylde suffered a setback in the minutes before kick-off, when Oliver Brennand pulled out after suffering a hamstring injury in the warm-up. He was replaced by Tom Halsall.
Fylde attacked spiritedly from the kick-off, with a slick handling move that had Stourbridge on immediate retreat, but the move broke down with Rawlings spilling the ball feet from the line.
But the home side didn’t have to wait long to open their account.
Paul Arnold careered through the Stourbridge rearguard, linking well with Evan Stewart.
Oliver Viney then emerged in support and spurted over on four minutes, goaled by Kenyon.
Stourbridge made a quick response, courtesy of a penalty by full-back Liam Holder, on loan from Leicester Tigers’ academy and making his senior debut.
Fylde conceded another penalty and Holder made no mistake from wide out.
Stourbridge came more and more into the game, but that impetus was halted on 21 minutes with a splendid Fylde try.
It was from a move started inside Fylde’s 22 – Chris Briers made a tremendous amount of ground before linking up with brother Chris.
The supporting Halsall chimed in to claim the try, finishing off a well-crafted build-up.
Kenyon landed the conversion, and he was required to kick two minutes later as rampant Fylde crossed again.
Waywell tore beyond the gain-line with a forceful burst of acceleration.
Tom Lavelle joined in and slipped a peach of a pass to Stephen Briers, who went over.
Kenyon again goaled, and, from being under the cosh for a while, Fylde suddenly found themselves 21-6 up.
Stourbridge prop Joe Reid went down injured as Fylde moved forward and was stretchered off, then taken away by ambulance with suspected cruciate ligament damage which will end his season.
But Stourbridge were anything but a spent force, and hammered Fylde back deep in defence, at which point scrum-half Callum McShane was yellow carded for an infringement near the line.
Stourbridge looked certain to score as a glaring overlap appeared on the left, but Fylde had the most fortuitous of escapes as Ben Barkley flung out a careless forward pass, with the man outside in acres of space.
There followed several minutes of intense pressure on the Fylde line, and it was only resolute tackling that kept Stourbridge out and maintained the 21-6 lead until half-time.
Stourbridge made a perfect opening to the second half with a try by Tom Jarvis. Any one of three Stourbridge players could have scored, but it was the centre who supplied the finishing flourish. Holder was unable to convert the try.
Fylde hit back strongly, but Viney could not cling on to Kenyon’s pass. Fylde’s bonus point try was not too long in arriving, however.
Rawlings, who was having a splendid game, was rewarded as he got the final downward pressure in a pushover from a set-scrum.
Kenyon hit the post with his conversion kick from wide out.
After Sam Beaumont made an opportunist break, Stourbridge took the initiative and pounded the Fylde line, but dogged defending saved the day.
Stewart, surely as good a back row forward as any in the division, tested Stourbridge to the limit with a galloping sprint to within sniffing distance of the line, but it was Stourbridge who were the next to score.
Waywell had halted lock Nile Dacres with a last-ditch tackle, but the Midlanders would not be denied, and Alastair Bressington breezed over for an unconverted try.
Fylde’s response was immediate and damaging. They attacked in numbers and Kenyon, who only seconds earlier had been treated for a neck injury, finished a carefully crafted move.
Kenyon narrowly missed his kick, but Fylde’s lead was 31-16 entering the final phase.
They still had to survive some tricky moments, their cause not aided when replacement Livesey, and then Rawlings, were yellow-carded in rapid succession in the final five minutes.
Matthew Williams scored in the corner in the last act of this entertaining encounter, as Fylde ended one of their sternest home examinations of the season with 13 men.
FYLDE: C Briers; Viney, S Briers, Waywell, Halsall; Kenyon, McShane; Griffiths (Livesey 62 minutes), Roddam, Lavelle, Arnold (Stephenson, 64) Rawlings, J Beaumont, Stewart (Altham, 76) S Beaumont.