Fylde RFC 42 Chester 17: Six tries send hosts top of the table

Connor Wilkinson touches down for Fylde in their win against Chester
Connor Wilkinson touches down for Fylde in their win against Chester
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Fylde went top of National Two (North) with a 42-17 victory over Chester at the Woodlands as six tries to three fairly reflected their advantage.

While Fylde’s tries were superbly executed, the game was fractured by penalty decisions which spoiled the continuity from both teams.

The game kicked off in bright sunshine following 24 hours of heavy rain.

The excellent surface at the Woodlands was a great credit to the drainage, soil conditions and the dedicated attention of the groundsman.

Chester started positively, but after a brief defensive spell, Fylde were soon on the attack.

In the fifth minute, a loose kick out of defence by the visitors was gathered inside their half by David Fairbrother, who shipped it to centre Scott Rawlings.

The big man put in an inch-perfect chip to the right and it bounced kindly for debutant winger Tom Roebuck who strolled over for the opening try.

The England U18s and Sale Sharks Academy dual registered player could not have asked for a better start for his new club, and although Greg Smith was unable to convert, Fylde had a 5-0 lead.

In the 13th minute, Fairbrother made a superb break and freed Hal Chapman and Adam Lanigan before reaching centre Connor Wilkinson.

He stepped past the first defender and raced clear for a fine try, which Smith converted for a 12-0 advantage.

A minute later, after the restart, a Chester player offended and Smith kicked a straightforward penalty to extend the lead.

Chester responded in the best possible way when, in the 21st minute, they turned pressure into points.

They attacked down the right and Shay Owen muscled through a couple of tackles before passing inside to scrum-half Tom Holloway, who outpaced the Fylde defence to score.

The conversion attempt by Mark Dixon was wide of the posts but the deficit had been reduced to 15-5.

Fylde’s response quickly followed when, from a ruck just inside the Chester half, full-back Tom Carleton made a break down the right.

That took him through the vestiges of the visitors’ defence before a sharp inside pass gave Smith a free run to the line to score under the posts with the conversion making it 22-5.

Fylde attacked immediately from the restart and, 30 metres from the Chester line, tryscorer turned creator when Smith delicately chipped over a flat defensive line and the ball was athletically taken by Wilkinson, who dived over for the bonus point fourth try.

Smith’s conversion was wide but a 27-5 lead looked very convincing.

Nevertheless, it was time for the visitors to press deep in Fylde’s half.

In the 34th minute, after several phases, the Chester backs went left and the ubiquitous Owen dived into the corner to score but the attempted conversion was wide.

The visitors had the bit between their collective teeth now and were back pressurising the home defence.

Desperate Fylde defence in the 39th minute cost them a yellow card for Fairbrother but the 14 men held out until the half-time whistle.

When the second half started, Chester were in no mood to waste their man advantage.

They attacked down their right and a loose ball was gathered before Owen drove over for his second try and Dixon slotted a good conversion to get within 10 points of the home side.

It was time for Fylde to consolidate, and in the 56th minute, a Chester player offended with Smith kicking the penalty to take his side further ahead at 30-17.

Four minutes later, a serious injury to Chester’s Mike Craven held up play for 20 minutes.

He received careful on-field attention before, eventually, being stretchered off and taken to hospital by ambulance.

Fylde didn’t let the delay affect their intensity and dominated the last 20 minutes.

Sustained attacking inside the Chester half saw them extend their lead in the 65th minute.

Following a ruck, the ball was moved left and Rawlings drove through a tackle before offloading to Olli Parkinson.

He, in turn, found Smith and the fly-half scored his fourth try in three matches with the conversion making the score 37-17.

The final act came in the last minute when, in the best move of the game, Fylde ran the ball from deep inside their own half.

Fairbrother made the half-break before Rawlings linked with Carleton, who raced clear from 35 metres out.

Smith’s conversion was wide but Fylde were happy to end with their seventh victory in eight games and retain their unbeaten record in their centenary season.

Smith collected a haul of 22 points with the man of the match nomination going to prop Elliot Horner.

Next up for Fylde on Saturday is a trip to deposed leaders Caldy, whose game at Sedgley fell foul of a waterlogged pitch, for what should be a real test of their promotion ambitions.