Fylde RFC 15 Stourbridge 10: Breezy Woodlands performance sees former leaders beaten

Fylde again had cause to celebrate a game against Stourbridge after ending the visitors’ unbeaten league record with victory at the Woodlands.

Sunday, 5th December 2021, 4:45 pm

Two years ago, this fixture was one that celebrated the 100th year of Fylde’s existence.

This game was one where, despite the wind and rain, Fylde won to move within five points of new leaders Sedgley Park.

Facing a Stourbridge side that had won 10 games from 10, missing out on only one bonus point in the process, Fylde made six changes from the side beaten at Luctonians.

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Tom Grimes, Matt Sturgess, Matt Garrod, Harlan Corrie and Phil Mills all returned, Joe Higgins made his first start and Matt Ashcroft returned to the bench after recovering from injury.

In conditions that could only be described as horrendous, Stourbridge’s ill discipline threatened to cost them early on when they gave away back-to-back penalties, but they started to dominate the early exchanges through the strength of their forwards.

Fylde’s David Fairbrother was excellent early on though, carrying the ball strongly from the back of the scrums and defending with his usual hard-hitting style which kept Fylde in the early battles.

They started to increase the pressure and took the lead moments after Scott Rawlings earned a crucial turnover by the halfway line.

A well-placed kick through was picked up by Tom Carleton, who dived on the loose ball to score.

Greg Smith couldn’t convert but Fylde crossed again when Rawlings burst through the line to score and give them an early 10-0 lead.

Fylde held off some brief pressure and were firmly in control but that momentum was halted after Fairbrother was sinbinned on 27 minutes.

They were made to pay as the visitors got themselves back in the game, Steve Thorp taking a quick penalty tap to score under the posts and Sebastian Atkinson converting.

With Fairbrother returning just before the end of the half, Fylde managed to keep their 10-7 lead at the interval before having the conditions against them in the second period.

They suffered an injury blow as the prolific Carleton was replaced by Ben Turner, who would then play a major part in proceedings.

Sturgess and Smith orchestrated their side at the rucks, getting the forwards to take the ball in and make the hard yards, with kicking long not a viable option.

The game-breaking moment then arrived as a strong maul saw Fylde within touching distance of the Stourbridge line.

Sturgess came up with a perfectly-timed kick out to the right, where Turner was in acres of space to collect the ball, score and make it 15-7.

Stourbridge then lost two players to the sinbin, firstly winger Feyi-Waboso and then replacement forward Ben O’Sullivan, as Fylde continued to search for a try to put the game out of sight.

The visitors landed a penalty on 79 minutes to give them a slight hope, but Fylde only had to put the ball out of play to win the game – if only it was that simple.

Smith went to do just that, but though he was near the touchline, his lofted kick was caught by the gale.

Stourbridge winger Dan Rundle hacked the loose ball from halfway along the touchline and set off after it.

He was winning the race to get a try and snatch, at least, an equalising score in dramatic fashion – only for the ball to beat him and trickle over the dead ball line.

The final whistle meant Stourbridge’s unbeaten start was over and Fylde’s undefeated home record remained intact.

It sets them up for next weekend’s trip to Hull before 2021 comes to an end with a home game against Chester on December 18.

Fylde RFC: Forster; Hadfield, Carleton (Turner 40), Rawlings, Grimes; Smith, Sturgess; Higgins, Gregory, Bowker (Ashcroft 40), Parkinson, Garrod, Corrie, Mills (Partington 7), Fairbrother. Non-playing replacements: Parker, Lanigan.

Stourbridge: Heatley; Feyi-Waboso (Moseley 65), Morgan, Riley, Rundle; Atkinson, Morgan; Thorp (McLeod 65), Lea, George, Perks (Murphy 51), Meakin (O’Sullivan 65), Smith, Mifsud (Theobald-Thomas 61), Mukarati.

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