Two of the bottom three in National One staged a closely fought, end-to-end, attacking encounter at the Woodlands, where the visitors claimed a precious victory in the relegation stakes.
READ MORE Last match: Coventry 47 Fylde 3
Fylde outscored the Humbersiders by two tries to one but three successful penalty kicks by Ionians proved decisive.
Handling errors and a penalty count against them, especially in the first half, undermined Fylde’s industrious and committed performance.
The morning had been very wet following six hours of rain but the Woodlands pitch stood up well in the circumstances and a dry, still afternoon meant the conditions were reasonable.
The early exchanges were dominated by Ionians as they retained possession effectively and pushed Fylde back into their half. A Fylde defensive lineout went askew and Ionians pressed hard.
Fylde resisted bravely, and a rapid breakout and kick ahead by full-back Tom Carleton took play 70 metres downfield. However, Ionians regained possession and cleared the danger.
The Hull backs then broke from deep and pinned Fylde back again as a long grubber kick was collected over his own line by winger James Bailey.
The Hull forwards made their pressure count on 15 minutes, when they drove to the line and prop Rikki Stout was awarded the touchdown despite home claims of a double movement. The attempted conversion by fly-half Chris Bell drifted wide.
Fylde had the advantage in the scrummages, almost throughout the game, with the experienced front row of Adam Lewis, Alex Loney, Mark Irving dominating. Hooker and coach Loney was setting a fine example as the man in charge of the team in the absence of head coach Warren Spragg.
Faulty handling by the home side negated some of their attacks but parity was restored after 23 minutes.
Fly-half Greg Smith kicked a penalty to the corner, and from the subsequent lineout the home pack set up a driving maul,
Skipper Lewis was the last man up and claimed the try. Smith was unable to add the extras but the sides were level at 5-5.
Over-punctilious referee Mr Thomas was penalising Fylde on numerous occasions, and in the 28th minute Chris Bell converted a straightforward penalty from in front of the posts to put Hull back in front.
That’s how it remained until the final minute of the half, when Fylde conceded another penalty and Bell converted well from 40 metres out to extend his side’s lead to 11-5 at half-time.
Fylde earned more than their share of possession and territory in the second half but found it hard to penetrate an obdurate Ionians defence.
The Fylde pack upped their work rate in attack and defence but they conceded another penalty in the 60th minute and Bell’s third successful kick completed Hull’s scoring.
Fylde came back strongly. A smart move down their right featured a incisive break by Tom Burtonwood, who impressed in the unusual position for him of openside flanker. However, his pass eluded winger Henry Hadfield and the chance was gone.
However, a similar move on 71 minutes saw Connor Wilkinson break from midfield and pass to Chris Briers, who immediately released Hadfield.
There was no stopping the young Cumbrian, who raced down the right touchline and then cut inside for an excellent try nearer the posts. Smith kicked the conversion and Fylde were back within two points.
Despite the increasing intensity of their play, Fylde struggled to build pressure in the remaining moments.
Their frustration mounted when the decision to award Fylde a penalty in their own half was reversed following a minor fracas.
Fylde launched a couple of late attacks but these broke down through misplaced passes.
This was another disappointing afternoon for the home side, who knew the result against these well-match sides could have gone the other way.
While the win gives Hull’s survival hopes a massive boost, bottom club Fylde’s league situation has not worsened – they remain 22 points from safety – but they now have a maximum of 40 to play for. Even so, this young squad will battle on as long as survival is mathematically possible.
Fylde: Carleton; Hadfield, Briers, Wilkinson, Bailey; Smith, Dolly; Lewis, Loney (Gregory 53), Irving (Richardson 60), Garrod (Ashcroft 60), Parkinson, Corrie (Garrod 78), Burtonwood, Hopwood; Non-playing replacements: Fowden, Nicholls.