Fylde put in their most determined and spirited performance so far to beat National Two North’s second-placed club in their first-ever league meeting at Hare Lane.
READ MORE: Spragg happy with a pack of tough decisions
Greg Smith’s three second-half penalties secured the win but hardly summed up an engrossing, open contest in which Fylde earned a third straight victory and ended their hosts’ four-match winning run.
Fylde held Chester on their 4G pitch in the first 40 minutes, despite going down to 13 players, and then outplayed them in a fine second-half display. The win may have come at a price, though, in terms of injuries.
Fylde’s influential centre Chris Briers had picked up a knock in training and was replaced by Ralph Dowds, just back after almost two seasons out with injury.
And he couldn’t have asked for a better start, intercepting a pass on Fylde’s 22-metre line in the fourth minute and racing 75m for the opening try, which Greg Smith converted.
As Chester came back strongly, the visitors’ pack showed their physicality in defence. Sin- binnings have caused Fylde problems this season and so it proved again in the 13th minute, when lock Olli Parkinson was shown a yellow card for a ‘tip tackle’. Two minutes later referee George Richardson sin-binned flanker Sam Dugdale for a technical offence.
For six minutes the visitors’ 13 men held out but then flanker George Baxter got on the end of a move down the left a try. Centre James Robbins converted well to level the scores.
Fylde winger Henry Hadfield was injured in trying to prevent the try and was replaced by Cameron Crampton, who went to full-back with Tom Carleton switching to the wing.
With Fylde restored to 15 players, they began to control the game as their backs tested the Chester defence.
The Lancastrians had a definite advantage in the lineout, stealing some of Chester’s throws as locks Parkinson and Nick Ashcroft proved disruptive.
Fly-half Smith varied the play with a couple of measured crosskicks aimed at Carleton but the Chester defence was up to the task.
When Fylde were awarded a penalty in the final moments of the half, Smith attempted a 45m kick from wide on the right. It drifted wide and the scores remained 7-7.
Fylde started the second half retaining the ball well and generally controlling play. The penalty count had gone Chester’s way in the first half but this changed around.
In the 44th minute, Smith converted a 25m penalty for a lead his side would never lose.
From the restart, Carleton was high tackled and his opposing winger Craig Ross was sent to the sin-bin.
Fylde’s backs were testing the home defence with clever handling but one of the meanest defences in the division held out.
Scrum-half Gus Warr, playing his first full game, was prompting backs and forwards with swift passing and quick support play.
With the visitors camped out deep in the Chester half, they earned another penalty near the try-line but spurned an easy three points with a ‘tap and go’ which was repelled.
Fylde number eight David Fairbrother had been as energetic and prominent as ever but in the 63rd minute he charged into Chester defenders, injured his shoulder and was helped off.
A long break out by the Chester backs looked like it would end with a try in the right corner but the scrambling Fylde defence forced a 5m lineout which they won.
As both sides sought the crucial next score, a home indiscretion in the 71st minute resulted in a penalty in front of the posts. Smith needed no encouragement to make it 13-7.
A couple of minutes later, Chester scorer Baxter turned villain as he was sin-binned for a technical offence.
Greg Smith attempted another 45m penalty, straighter than the one he had narrowly missed, and the ball fell over the crossbar to move Fylde two scores ahead at 16-7.Q
But Chester didn’t lie down and they spent the remaining minutes camped on the Fylde try-line. Fierce defence kept them out at the cost of a string of penalties.
A couple of driving mauls were looked certain to result in a try but the home side were restricted to one last penalty attempt.
Replacement kicker Josh Morris looked to secure a losing bonus point but his kick drifted wide and the final whistle blew.
A good number of Fylde supporters cheered their side appreciatively but the physical toll was clear as Hadfield, Fairbrother and a bloodied Dugdale made their way back to the changing rooms with their team-mates.
This win lifts Fylde a place to fifth as they look forward to a tough December which includes tasty home games against Wharfedale, Huddersfield and Preston Grasshoppers.
Head coach Warren Spragg said: “I am extremely proud of the effort that went into that game from all 20 players.
“We needed the whole squad to deliver big performances and everybody stood up to the task. Chester are a very good side and I don’t think many teams will come away with a win from their place.
“We’ve now got a really exciting month in front of us and we will need to be at the top of our game to get results.
“It would be great if we can get a big crowd behind us on Saturday against Wharfedale.”
FYLDE:Carleton, Hadfield (Crampton 22), Dowds, Wilkinson, Grimes; Smith, Warr; Harnter (Rodd 51), Gregory, Lewis, Ashcroft, Parkinson (Garrod 51), Vernon (Corrie 56), Dugdale (Ashman 79), Fairbrother (Vernon 63).