Fylde 42 Hull Ionians 15

Fylde & Hull Ioians at The Woodlands
Fylde & Hull Ioians at The Woodlands
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What a transformation!

Fylde could hardly have played worse in the first half. So much so that in the first time in the club’s history there could have been an award for the invisible-man-of-the-match.

Everything that could go wrong for Fylde did so, and they were so much out of it that bottom of the table Hull Ionians let them off the hook, failing to make the most of their territorial superiority.

It would have been impossible for it to deteriorate any further as Fylde had been so abject, but thankfully the reverse was the case once the second half started and they looked a transformed team.

Fylde found their form as they crossed for six tries in the space of 25 minutes to wipe out their opponents.

Oli Brennand was irrepressible in the second half – Paul Arnold finally got out of slumbering giant mode to produce a highly significant contribution.

Evan Stewart was influential too, while Scott Barrow, the only player to have anything like a good game in the first half, turned in an eye-catching display.

Ionians missed the chance of an early breakthrough when Lloyd Hayes failed with a penalty attempt.

Shortly after, Ionians did score after an enforced error by Fylde, who made a mess of their own line-out ball.

Mark Wigham burst away, finding a willing ally in David Laverick before the ball reached scrum-half Isaac Green, who nipped in for a try, goaled by Hayes.

Fylde piled back and Brennand and Chris Johnson were prominent in the attack before Ryan De La Harpe saw the ball squirm from his grasp near the try-line as he was tackled.

It was a sluggish opening by Fylde, exemplified when they lost a scrum against the head, one of a number of early errors they perpetrated.

Brennand caused panic in the Ionians ranks, breaking clear, but the move broke down as Warren Spragg coughed up possession, a mistake replicated moments later by the same player.

It was a summary of Fylde’s below-par display in an opening quarter as miserable as the murky November weather.

The visitors could have stretched their lead on 23 minutes, but much to Fylde’s relief centre Sam Forbes knocked on over the line.

Ionians were belying their lowly league status and maintained the pressure on the home defence, Fylde’s cause not helped by a depressing sequence of lost possession.

It was a half an hour to forget. Ben Rath tried a run down the right, but symptomatic of events, the attack petered out tamely.

Fly-half Hayes was another Ionians player to come close to scoring after haring away on the counter-attack.

The half finished as it had started with the visitors on the front foot and on attack after Fylde lost the ball against the head in the scrum – the Fylde error count in that opening 40 minutes was bordering on the astonishing.

Trailing 7-0 at the start of the second half, Fylde failed to make the most of a penalty awarded for a late tackle on Barrow.

In the next attack, Fylde did notch their long overdue first score.

Brennand made inroads down the left before Arnold, not the only player to have a subdued first half, slipped a pass to hooker Tom Burtonwood, who crashed over from close in.

Chris Johnson launched a peach of a conversion from wide and it sailed through the posts to level the scores after 45 minutes. Fylde had an escape when a long-range penalty by Hayes struck the posts.

Play went the other end of the field and a much-needed Fylde try accrued.

Fylde attacked down the left and at the end of it Evan Stewart supplied a telling pass to Johnson, who had just enough legs to make it to the line.

Johnson produced the goods again with another excellent conversion and in the space of three minutes Fylde had turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 lead.

Fylde mounted their most flowing attack of the contest, passing the ball across the field slickly, but Spragg failed to hold on to the ball as it reached him wide on the right in a promising position.

The first-half blues were beginning to dissipate and Fylde registered their third try after 62 minutes.

Barrow unleashed a neat pass at speed and Dan Birchall required no second invitation as he careered through for a touchdown, goaled by Johnson to make the score 21-7 after 62 minutes.

Two minutes later Hayes reduced the arrears by three points with a penalty.

Chris Briers hit back with a fine solo try on 66 minutes to bring up a bonus point. Johnson landed the conversion.

It got better for Fylde as Arnold unloaded magnificently and Brennand high-tailed it through at electric speed, finishing off the try with an extravagant swallow-dive, for a score which Johnson augmented.

Brennand had reason to celebrate again two minutes later as he embarked on a 75-yard run, defying all attempts to halt him with a spectacular try – Johnson’s kick made the score 42-10, representing a remarkable turnaround.

Replacement Richard Fletcher went over to score a consolation for Ionians and was stretchered off – it looked quite serious, but the prognosis was a badly twisted knee.

It was an authoritative victory in the end – but why on earth did it take Fylde so long?

Fylde: Rath; Spragg (S Briers, 66) C Briers, Barrow, Brennand; Johnson, De La Harpe (Webb, 70); Birchall (Griffiths, 66) Burtonwood (Rylance, 58) Altham (Lewis, 58) Arnold, Gore, Robinson, Stewart, Beaumont.