Fylde RFC 29 Hull Ionians 41: Leaders dominant in second half at Woodlands
The National Two North leaders produced a dominant second-half display as Fylde slipped into the bottom half after this fourth defeat in five games.
Fylde started slowly and were soon stuck in their own half, penalties by Lewis Minikin after three and six minutes leaving the visitors 6-0 up.
The hosts struggled for fluency and strong surges by Elliot Horner and Alex Loney came to nought as knock-ons disrupted the flow.
Fylde needed a spark and it was provided in the 16th minute, when scrum-half Cameron Crampton made a fabulous break to take play from one 22 to the other. Although a good scoring opportunity went begging with a poor choice of final pass, Fylde were at last looking lively and dangerous.
Loney forced his way over after a series of drives only to lose the ball under pressure when attempting to ground it.
But Fylde kept the pressure on and won a series of penalties, Greg Smith firing the ball over to get the scoreboard ticking.
Fylde’s good work was undone on 34 minutes, when they won their own lineout 15 yards out but spilled the ball, allowing Ionians hooker Ben Stephenson to canter in. Minikin converted and it was 13-3.
Just when it seemed half-time couldn’t come too quickly, Fylde burst into life with five minutes of scintillating rugby. Straight from the re-tart Ionians kicked deep to Connor Wilkinson, who was playing at full-back for the first time this season, with Tom Carleton moving to the wing and Ralph Dowds coming in at centre.
Wilkinson showed how good he is with space in front of him by making a wonderful break. Quick ball from the tackle then saw try machine Carleton run to the line, Smith’s conversion cutting the gap to three points.
The sweeping move resulted in Loney being forced off injured, replaced by Ben Gregory, but Wilkinson wasn’t finished and made another incisive break before sending Dowds in for a try right on the hooter.
Dowds’ try, in his first game for 20 months, was improved by Smith and almost out of nowhere Fylde led 17-13 at half-time.
Fylde had a decent wind advantage for the second half but any optimism was to drain away as Hull produced a masterclass in negating Fylde’s attacking threats by choosing not to kick to the dangerous back three of Carleton, Tom Grimes and Wilkinson.
A frustrating 40 minutes was to follow as Fylde struggled to gain any real possession and Hull’s lineout catch and drive was impressive against the wind.
Fylde did not aid their cause with another sloppy defensive lineout, from which Ionians prop Ben Bell scored on 43 minutes.
Minikin did not miss a kick all day and at 20-17 Hull had a lead they were never to relinquish.
Fylde withstood another five minutes of pressure but then committed the cardinal sin of missing touch with a relieving penalty. After a full three minutes of Hull attack, Minikin converted his own try for a 27-17 lead.
Fylde gathered themselves, and after a fine kick take by Ben Vernon and a sublime Chris Briers midfield break the ever industrious Olli Parkinson forced his way over for an unconverted try.
Sadly, solid debutant number eight Jacob Conner was injured in that move, resulting in a break in play of several minutes as he was stretchered off. Given the paucity a back row options at present, a pack reshuffle was needed as Matt Garrod entered the fray.
On the hour, Ionians were awarded three penalties in quick succession and turned the screw with a series of catch and drives. The referee lost his patience with Fylde and yellow-carded Garrod, though other players could have been sent to the naughty step.
Ionians now cranked the pressure up and Fylde’s dam burst as James Newman forced his way over for a converted try.
And 34-22 became 41-22 on 68 minutes, when Fylde ran out of defenders on the right and number eight Ed Falkingham crossed for the fifth try.
Fylde could have folded but put Ionians on the back foot for the last 10 minutes, forcing a series of penalties.
A quick tap and go by Crampton enabled Wilkinson on his shoulder to burst through the tackles and between the posts.
Smith drop-kicked the conversion and Fylde had a bonus point. They pressed for a second but were held up in the tackle.
When Loney left the field, the inexperience of the Fylde pack was exposed in the absence of Adam Lewis and Dave Fairbrother, and they were pretty much bullied out of it up front for large parts of the match.
Wilkinson was named man of the match for Fylde and Minikin, who bagged 21 points, for the visitors.
A weekend off will follow Saturday’s visit to Stourbridge and head coach Warren Spragg will look forward to getting some older heads back as soon as possible.
Fylde: Wilkinson, Carleton, Dowds, Briers, Grimes, Smith, Crampton; Horner, Loney, Joyner, N Ashcroft, Parkinson, Vernon, O’Ryan, Connor; Replacements: M. Ashcroft, Gregory, Garrod, Ashman, Fowden