Sedgley Park 31, Fylde 3
FYLDE were left with plenty to ponder after being on the wrong end of a pounding in the final of the John Burgess Lancashire Cup at Preston’s Lightfoot Green ground.
They were made to look distinctly second-best, and the result put into sharp focus the magnitude of the task on their hands next season.
It will not go down as a humiliating defeat, but it still bordered on the embarrassing.
Sedgley Park finished the campaign third in the table, while Fylde were fifth - but the gulf in class was enormous as the new county cup holders registered their third straight win over their rivals this season.
Park were streets ahead in terms of their teamwork, freshness and strength, aided in no small measure by the fine, tactical kicking of former Welsh international fly-half Colin Stephens.
By stark contrast, there was little pattern from Fylde who kicked away possession too cheaply - the line-out was messy and the lines of attack either disjointed or aimless.
As coach Dean Kenny, who has yet to have his position for next season clarified, remarked: “Sedgley Park seemed to want it more.”
The turning point came on 26 minutes, just when it seemed as though Fylde might profit by the sin-binning of influential Park number eight John Fourie.
He got 10 minutes in the cooler after an offence committed against Fylde’s Jonathan Webster, and with the score at only 6-0, it should have been time to capitalise on a side boasting only 14 men.
Instead, it was Sedgley Park who score 10 points to just three by Fylde, and that was a huge psychological boost.
Before that, Stephens, an all too regular scourge of Fylde this term, was at it again, slotting over penalties to give his side a 6-0 lead.
With Fourie off, Gavin Moffat halved the deficit with a 40-yard penalty, and briefly it looked as though Fylde, out-gunned territorially, might find a convenient route back.
However, it worked the other way - Brent Wilson spilled the ball in the tackle at the re-start, it was shovelled back to Stephens, who slotted over an opportunist dropped goal.
Park’s spirits were then lifted on 37 minutes when an ambitious kick and chase by full-back Pete Roberts paid dividends - unfortunately for Fylde his kick bounced away from Fylde hooker Craig McIntyre, who was clearly getting his head back together after a bad knock only moments before.
Winger Stewart Oldham chased through and claimed a decisive try and suddenly, despite being temporarily out-numbered, Park were 16-3 ahead at half-time.
Sedgley Park were very much in the box-seat now, and weak tackling allowed scrum-half Dave McCormack in for a try, followed by a penalty from Stephens to take the score to 24-3.
Fylde counter-attacked only fitfully, prop Webster going as close as anyone until he was tackled in the danger-zone by impressive wing forward Richard Senior.
With five minutes to go McCormack claimed his second try - goaled by Stephens - after the Fylde defence was exposed in some disarray.
Fylde played with a bit of late attacking gusto, the best run coming from replacement David Wiseman, who got to within sniffing distance of the Sedgley line, which ultimately held firm.
How Fylde cried out for a creative play-maker who could orchestrate from midfield - it was a shortcoming apparent at the outset of the season and it was just as glaringly apparent at the end.
Centre Gareth Davies was the clear pick of the Fylde side, always hunting for an opening - young winger Isaac Tuala looked unfazed on his debut and is one for the future.
But on this evidence, it is an imponderable future for the club as a whole in National League Two unless the on-field deficiencies in key areas are not remedied.