PACE ace Nick Royle scored a hat-trick to no avail as Fylde conceded seven tries to bow out of the Lancashire Cup at the quarter-final stage yesterday.
The National League Two hosts may have started as favourites, but Fylde were nonetheless disappointed to have exited a tournament which represented their last chance to salvage some silverware from another disappointing season.
Yet Manchester bossed the forward battle and were well worthy of this step closer to the final, to be staged at Fylde's Woodlands home.
The hosts were 12 points up inside 10 minutes and never looked like surrendering their lead – a second-half fightback briefly brought Fylde within 10 points but that was as close as they got.
And although the home tries were mainly of the close-range pushover variety, they earned the same five points as Royle's more eye-catching efforts.
Fylde fielded a strong side, though the Mancunians were closer to full strength.
There was a late change to the visitors' line-up, with Alistair Atkinson making a rare appearance at flanker because of Dan Waller's Lancashire call-up.
No.8 John Veal was one of three Fylde debutants, with try-scoring winger Marshall Hargreaves and hooker Alistair Kalin from New Zealand both making their bow off the bench.
Manchester lock Gareth Rawlings set the trend on six minutes with a pushover try as the home side repeatedly made pressure on the Fylde line count with an effective route-one approach.
Their second try three minutes later was a virtual carbon copy, though this time it was winger Gareth Wynne who emerged with the ball from beneath the heap of bodies.
Centre Scott Rawlings, brother of the earlier scorer, was successful with this conversion to strengthen his side's early grip on proceedings.
Fylde soon took a leaf out of their opponents' book, and when their pack drove over the line on 15 minutes it was hooker Alan Holmes who applied the vital touch to get his side back in the contest.
Fly-half John Armstrong failed to convert but rival kicker Rawlings did land the game's only penalty goal on 27 minutes and converted Manchester's third try on 35 – another close-range barge, this time by flanker Danny Collings – to stretch their lead to 22-5.
Royle had been kept quiet for much of the half but only needed one sniff to open his account a minute before the interval, taking on the defence in typical style and outpacing all comers for a thrilling score.
The 22-10 half-time deficit did not appear irretrievable but two tries in three minutes early in the second half put the tie beyond Fylde's reach.
Scott Rawlings scored the first five minutes after the restart and converted the second, which completed a brace for winger Wynne.
The afternoon seemed to be going from bad to worse when Fylde lost scrum-half Tom Eastham, the previous weekend's outstanding debutant against Darlington, with a leg injury.
However, Fylde's best spell followed as replacement Hargreaves scored with virtually his first touch.
The winger needed no time to acclimatise to first-team surroundings as he cut inside from the left on 55 minutes and beat several defenders on his way to the line, Armstrong landing his first goal at the third attempt.
Three minutes later and the comeback looked on as Armstrong made it 34-24 after Royle had crossed for his second try.
The winger was rewarded for chasing what looked a lost cause when his kick bounced and then escaped the grasp of the Manchester defence.
The next score was vital and on 68 minutes it went Manchester's way – yet another pushover amid such a melee that no player was credited with the try after more than one staked a claim.
Their final try four minutes later was no prettier but at least had an identifiable scorer in no.8 Dave Hopkin.Strangely, home half-back James Bramall seemed to be in a rush to take the conversion. And rather than waiting for Rawlings to attempt to land a fourth goal, the scrum-half succeeded with a drop goal himself – leading to speculation he wanted to bring the match to a hasty conclusion so not to miss any of the action at Twickenham!
One player who never allows his mind to wander before a final whistle is Royle, and having scored in the dying seconds of the first half he did likewise in the second.
This time he took on the defence on the outside and there was only ever going to be one winner of that race to the try-line.
It was the 24th try of a hugely productive season for the winger, who will be eager to add as many as possible in the five remaining league games – at least he's one Fylde player with something still to play for this season.
Fylde: Wallwork; Royle, Austin, Reeves, Fluker; Armstrong, Eastham; Simpson, Holmes, Clark, King, Banks, Rees, Atkinson, Veal. Replacements: Kalin, Moffat, Hanson, Cunliffe, Hargreaves, Lewis, O'Grady.