Fylde 31, Sedgley Park 33
FYLDE’S three-year domination of rugby union’s Lancashire Cup is at an end.
From a position of some comfort and a lead of 31-14, the balance of power changed swiftly in this semi-final as their National League One rivals scored three late tries in 15 minutes to seal a return to the Woodlands for next Monday’s final.
They will play Preston Grasshoppers or Liverpool St Helens, who were due to meet tonight. However, there has been speculation that LSH could pull out, allowing Hoppers a free run to the final.
Sedgley Park’s greater forward power told in the closing stages as Fylde failed to cope with a late surge that saw the visitors turn impending defeat into victory.
Fylde had led for much of the contest, their trademark free-flowing rugby epitomised by Oli Brennand’s hat-trick, but it was not quite enough.
There was plenty of fighting spirit, with Oliver Viney and Ed Binham having sound games, while Jonny Roddam performed with distinction in the back row.
Brennand gave Fylde the lead in the fourth minute, after Sedgley Park had been penalised when an early attack broke down. It was a fine sweeping move, the winger going over the line, corner flag and all under a fierce challenge.
Forwards Alex Loney and Tom Lavelle played a key supporting role in the unconverted score.
Former Fylde no.8 Juan Crous soon levelled for Sedgley Park, peeling away from the base of the scrum to power over the line. Tom Leader added the goal points to give the visitors the lead.
Fylde, playing in unfamiliar blue, threatened to retaliate, Viney showing a timely turn of pace before being scragged after a 40-yard sprint.
Viney was the instigator of the next Fylde try, feeding Brennand after a penetrating burst. The quicksilver wing finished it off with a mazy, pacy run that defied all attempts to stop him.
Sedgley Park ventured deep into Fylde terrain only for Fergus Owens to throw out a pass that was smartly intercepted by the ever-alert Brennand.
On 29 minutes, Steve Collins missed a long-range penalty attempt for Fylde, then Roddam prevented what looked a near-certain score for the visitors with a superb tackle.
It was only a temporary reprieve, Owens cutting through a huge gap to cross for a 34th-minute try.
There was confusion over the conversion as the touch-judges gave it but the referee ruled it out. After a three-line whip among the officials, the kick was ruled legitimate and Park edged ahead 14-12.
That’s how it remained until half-time, after Fylde replacement Adam Jackson conceded the 15th penalty of a stop-start first half but Smith missed from far out.
It was a Fylde debut for the veteran Jackson, formerly with Orrell, Neath and Grenoble. He has been helping Fylde’s Paul Arnold in coaching Lancashire’s Under-20s and answered an emergency call to play last night.
The second half began with Fylde on the attack. Sedgley were penalised when Viney was tackled without the ball as he hared towards the line. From the resulting scrum, Fylde regained the lead as right-wing Tom Halsall rounded off the move.
Collins missed the kick but Fylde were in front 17-14 after 44 minutes.
Six minutes later, Halsall crossed again, this time after excellent foraging by Alex Loney, who won turnover ball. Collins goaled and Fylde now led 24-14.
Fylde had Jackson sin-binned for ‘illegal use of the feet’, but it did not halt their momentum as Brennand completed his hat-trick after a spectacular piece of acceleration from 30 yards out. Collins converted from wide near the touchline.
Owens scored his second for Park, converting his own try after 65 minutes, a sign of worse to come for Fylde.
Three minutes later, replacement Andy Riley broke free to score another Sedgley try, and Owens compounded Fylde’s mounting probblems with a conversion from out wide to reduce the deficit to three points.
Martin Wallwork halted Owens with a try-saving tackle, meeting his rival head on and bringing him to a shuddering halt.
However, Sedgley’s recovery was complete as Jack Warrington burst through following sustained pressure after Fylde lost a scrum in their own half, provoking much euphoria in the visitors’ camp, both on and off the field, and a few shrugs of resignation and anti-climax in the home ranks.
Fylde: Viney; Halsall, Kenyon, Binham, Brennand; Collins, McShane; Livesey, Loney, Altham, Ferguson, Lavelle, McGinnis, Roddam, Stephenson. Replacements used on a night of rolling substitutions: Jackson, Wallwork Trippier, Halliday
*Fylde head coach Mark Nelson paid tribute to Brian Ashton, who is leaving the club’s coaching team.
Nelson said: “We have been incredibly lucky that Brian has been able to commit the amount of time, expertise and energy to the club over the past two years.
“Of course, he will be sorely missed but I fully understand and accept his reasons for stepping down.”
“I am hopeful that he will retain an input with the coaching at Fylde and, whatever the future holds, his influence on all those he has coached and worked with remains immense.”
Ashton has taken on an ambassadorial role with Kukri Sports that will involve time and travel commitments. The club said he had other options of potential work to consider.