Sheffield Tigers 17 Fylde RFC 12: First defeat since October so frustrating for Fylde

Top point-scorer Greg Smith missed goals for Fylde on a difficult kicking day in Sheffield
Top point-scorer Greg Smith missed goals for Fylde on a difficult kicking day in Sheffield
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Fylde’s nine-match unbeaten run was halted at a snow-bound Door Moor.

READ MORE: Only five-point wins will do for Fylde coach Spragg
The visitors dominated long stretches of the game but ultimately wasted an opportunity to close the gap at the top of National Two North as leading pair Hull Ionians and Chester both lost.

Volunteers cleared the lines after overnight snow and the pitch was fit for the game to go ahead.

Fylde began in the most purposeful fashion. In the second minute they forced the Tigers into conceding a penalty but division’s leading scorer Greg Smith saw his attempt drift wide on a difficult kicking day.

The visitors continued to press forward and in the 10th minute won another penalty at a scrum.

This time Smith kicked for the corner and set up a rolling maul from the lineout. As it rumbled towards the line, flanker Sam Dugdale broke off the side and plunged over. Smith converted well and the visitors were 7-0 ahead.

The goalkicking of fly-half Mark Ireland had been key to the Tigers’ win at the Woodlands in September. His seventh goal in the last minute sealed a 25-24 win that day and he kicked their first points of this contest with a penalty from a scrum on 14 minutes.

Fylde were soon back in charge, dominating possession and territory, but they were continually thwarted by heroic Tigers defence.

Smith saw another penalty attempt drift wide and Fylde were hit by a sucker punch a minute before half-time, when they conceded a penalty in their own half.

Ireland kicked for the corner and it was the home pack’s turn to set up a driving maul. Skipper Ed Simmons drove over to claim the try and Ireland converted for a 10-7 half-time lead.

Early in the second half, a kick by Fylde scrum-half Gus Warr was caught by opposing full-back Pete Swatkins and he skated through some ineffective tackling before sending former Fylde centre Tom Hart racing between the posts.

Ireland converted and the Tigers had a clear lead at 17-7 lead.

Fylde picked up the pace and were soon back pressing inside the home half, though their efforts were continually frustrated by fierce Sheffield defence and their own decision-making.

Their cause was helped by Tigers lock Ashley Holland being sinbinned on the hour but Fylde still couldn’t find a way through.

They finally closed the gap in the 77th minute after forcing Sheffield to concede a string of penalties inside their 22.

A driving maul ended with skipper Adam Lewis powering over for the try. Smith missed the conversion, meaning Fylde still trailed by five.

There was insufficient time to score again and a losing bonus point will be scant consolation for a Fylde side who were largely dominant.

After three straight defeats, the Tigers were fierce and committed in completing a double from the clubs’ first league meetings.

Fylde’s first defeat since October sees them slip a place to fourth, behind Huddersfield, in what is looking increasingly like an open promotion race.

The defeats for Hull and Chester to the teams placed 12th (Wharfedale) and eighth (Tynedale) respectively shows that teams throughout this division can all beat each other on their day. Tynedale visit the Woodlands on Saturday.

FYLDE: Carleton; Hadfield (Bailey 75), Dowds (Botha 71), Wilkinson, Grimes; Smith, Warr; Rodd (Ford 66), Gregory (Loney 66), Lewis, Garrod, Ashcroft, O’Ryan, Dugdale, Conner. Not used: Corrie.