Huddersfield 18, Fylde 25
HUDDERSFIELD’S football team may be known as the Terriers but the Yorkshire town’s oval-ball side were every bit as dogged and did everything in their power to knock the National Two North leaders off their pedestal.
They certainly ruffled Fylde’s feathers, even if they never seriously threatened to deny the visitors an 11th straight league win which took them beyond 100 points for the season and extended their lead by one more point to 23.
Fylde started in typically fluent style, scoring two eye-catching tries in the first eight minutes, but a determined Field side pulled back well, resulting in a muck-and-nettles second half struggle.
Fylde had lost both previous league encounters at Lockwood Park but there were no suggestions of a bogey ground in the opening exchanges.
Straight from the kick-off, Fylde swung the ball left through the backs and winger Oliver Brennand shot around the first tackler.
With 75 metres to go and only the full-back in front of him, Brennand skilfully swerved outside Tom Owen and squeezed in at the corner for his 17th try of the campaign. Steve Collins’ conversion drifted wide.
Seven minutes later came the try of the day. Field were pressing on the Fylde line but possession was turned over at a ruck five metres out.
Centre Mike Waywell, a week ahead of his England Counties debut, broke to the halfway line, drew Owen and set his own full-back Richard Kenyon free.
Kenyon stepped inside the covering winger Stephen Pratt and streaked away for his 14th try of the season between the posts. Collins converted and Fylde led 12-0.
Fylde were giving a display befitting league leaders but their first setback came on 13 minutes, when lock Nick King was sinbinned for foul play on his comeback from injury.
Field fly-half Chris Johnson is the top scorer in the division and duly converted the penalty.
Worse was to follow for Fylde as a hamstring injury forced the ever-dangerous Brennand off, then Field hit back with a try on 22 minutes.
Still facing 14 men, scrum-half George Hinchcliffe floated a pass to winger Adam Sutcliffe, who scored at the corner. The conversion was missed but Fylde’s lead had been cut to four.
King returned a minute later and battle was truly joined in a tight contest as the home side worked hard to keep the ball in the forwards and deny Fylde possession and space to bring their more dangerous backs into play.
This gameplan worked until a couple of minutes from half-time, when scrum-half Craig Aikman skipped over from a five-metre scrum and Collins converted, making the score 19-8 at the break.
However, Fylde lost a second influential back as Kenyon failed to reappear, having dislocated a finger.
Young Sam Russell and Callum McShane joined a makeshift back line, but although Fylde’s fluency was affected they did stretch their lead with Collins penalties on 58 and 65 minutes.
It looked all over at 25-8 but a late Huddersfield rally put the visitors on the back foot until the final whistle.
Field fly-half Johnson intercepted a telegraphed pass on 67 minutes for an opportunistic try which he converted himself.
Still Field came at Fylde and a second Johnson penalty two minutes from time earned them a losing bonus point.
Talking of bonus points, this was only the third time all season Fylde have failed to earn one for scoring four tries, which can be put down to their hosts’ bravery and some questionable decision-making in attack.
Fylde face another seven league games against tough opponents who will try to emulate and improve on Huddersfield’s performance.
And with injuries building up and representative calls imminent, the depth of Fylde’s squad will be truly tested
Fylde: Kenyon, Royle, Collins, Waywell, Brennand; Wallwork, Aikman; Livesey, Roddam, Altham, Arnold, King, Ferguson, Stephenson, S Beaumont. Replacements: Lavelle, Holmes, Sutherland, McShane, Russell.