Fylde 53, Westoe 24
HAIL the champions!
It’s still mathematically possible for Fylde to be overhauled in National Two North, but it would take a series of freak results.
Only Loughborough Students, surprisingly beaten by Huddersfield on Saturday, can possibly overhaul Fylde’s points tally, while Westoe can equal it (the Students and Westoe still have to play each other twice).
Fylde can throw all statistical calculations out of the window if they win one more match. They have four left – one of those at home to Manchester, who haven’t won all season, and another against second-bottom Rugby Lions, so it looks academic to say the least.
On the pitch, where it matters, Fylde were simply superb against Westoe, and reached 999 points for the campaign in the process.
But the scoreline does not reflect how hard Fylde had to battle.
Fylde can seldom have scaled such attacking heights all season. Jason Robinson gave a gem of a performance, setting up attacks from all over the field, producing by far and away his most effective performance in a Fylde shirt.
Oli Brennand was at times unplayable on the wing, while Steve Collins was productive all afternoon from fly-half, constantly putting Westoe on the back foot. And Mike Waywell, who has no end of potential, scored a fine hat-trick.
Westoe could never be written off, but Fylde were in irresistible, irrepressible form.
Fylde started brightly in the spring sunshine, Paul Arnold and Steve McGinnis pinning the opposition back with strong runs.
But Fylde had an escape when hooker Jonny Roddam’s lineout throw only found Westoe’s Joseph Maw at the tail, and last-ditch scrambling defence, spearheaded by Arnold, saved the day.
Respite for Fylde was brief, and on seven minutes Westoe went in front, centre James Clark dancing past Richard Kenyon’s attempted tackle to score. Mark Bedworth added the conversion.
Robinson started to come into his own at this point, and rolled back the years as he dodged through the stubborn Westoe defence, but Waywell’s fumble halted the move.
Fylde then worked themselves into another promising position, but again a throw went awry at the tail. Dropped passes did not help Fylde’s cause in the opening quarter, but on 22 minutes they hit back in superb style. Waywell made a magnificent break from deep, then the supporting scrum-half Craig Aikman smuggled a pass to centre Kenyon, who beat the last man to complete a magnificent move. Collins’ kick levelled the scores.
Arnold was softening up the Westoe defence, and when play was switched wide, Collins fed Brennand, who launched an eye-of-the-needle run through the Westoe defence and inside to score. Collins’ conversion made it 14-7.
Fylde’s next try was not long in coming. Robinson and Arnold did the spadework before skipper Sam Beaumont stepped into the line to force his way over for the third try in 12 minutes. Collins’ successful conversion made it 21-7.
Westoe poured forward from the re-start. Richard Thirkell burrowed through from a line-out to score. The conversion was missed, leaving the half-time score 21-12.
The first try in the second half was vital, and Robinson nearly set it up with a searing run from deep.
Robinson soon combined with Brennand for another threatening break, then was in the thick of it yet again as the victim of a high tackle, which enabled Collins to slot over a penalty after 45 minutes.
Robinson, in marvellous form, then unleashed Brennand, who hared away. As two defenders closed, he slipped a pass to Waywell, who was hustled into touch.
Fylde came again and Collins, playing out of his skin, was held up by five men in his bid to get over the line.
But there was no holding Fylde, and Waywell escaped everyone to go over from close range, after a concerted bout of attacking play.
Collins converted this 49th minute try and extended the lead to 31-12.
Westoe refused to give up and centre David Haswell scored a try, goaled by Bedworth.
Fylde’s response was immediate and Brennand launched a powerful run, before Waywell steamed into the line to score wide out.
Collins failed with the kick, but Fylde’s lead was 36-19.
Josh Beaumont made an immediate impact as a forward replacement, pinching the ball on Westoe’s throw, and then producing a saving tackle wide on the right.
Only some yeoman-hearted defence kept out Westoe as they attacked again, but on 69 minutes Fylde gave themselves some breathing space ... and how!
Brennand again was the instigator with a jinking burst from deep. Robinson carried on the move and found Waywell, who fended off a defender to complete his hat-trick.
Collins then slipped a quick pass to give McGinnis a simple stroll-in try. Collins goaled, and within 90 seconds Fylde had again beaten a defence at sixes and sevens. Callum McShane crossed the line to bring up the half-century.
With a minute left, flanker Joseph Maw pulled a try back.
In the final act of an all-action contest, it was somehow fitting that it should be Robinson who prevented what looked a certain score as he brought down Gareth Kerr with a beautiful tackle.
No wonder he was mobbed by colleagues congratulating him.