South Leicester 12 Fylde RFC 59: Tom Carleton scores hat-trick as nine-try Fylde strengthen promotion challenge

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Fylde moved within three points of the National Two North summit with this overwhelming victory on their first trip to South Leicester.

READ MORE: Fylde fully focused ahead of final run-in
The third-placed club took early control of the game and their nine tries to two reflected the gulf between the teams.

An official attendance figure of 49 spectators reflects the struggles of the South side, who conceded 59 points for the third successive match.

Fylde dominated possession and territory from the opening minutes and scored the first try just eight minutes in.

From a maul and subsequent ruck 10 metres from South’s line, fly-half Greg Smith whipped out a pass to winger Tom Carleton who scored with ease. Greg Smith converted.

Four minutes later the Fylde forwards launched a sustained driving maul, which splintered the home pack.

Hooker Ben Gregory was the last man up and Smith added the extras, with a good kick to the right of the posts making it 14-0.

In the 16th minute South hit back strongly with a sharp try by full-back Jonathan Hughes, though fly-half Dan Glasse was unable to kick the conversion.

Fylde soon took back control and in the 19th minute increased their lead with virtually a re-run of their first try.

From a ruck in the left corner, the ball was shifted quickly to Carleton and he popped the ball up to Cam Crampton who dotted down for the try. Smith added an excellent conversion from near the touchline.

In the 23rd minute Fylde set up another driving maul 15 metres out, this time down the right and with the same result as previously.

Once again it was Gregory at the back of the maul who dived over for his second try. Greg Smith missed the conversion but his side had a 26-5 advantage.

South grittily tried to work their way back into the contest and on the half-hour they moved the ball left through their backs 25 metres from Fylde’s line.

However, Fylde’s number eight and arch-opportunist Jacob Conner read a pass and nipped in to intercept, trotting to the line for his second Fylde try which Smith converted easily.

Fylde finished the first period in the best possible way, with a move started deep in their own half.

Prop Bevan Rodd and flanker Sam Dugdale moved the ball left and centre Chris Briers threw long to Carleton.

He raced to the halfway line before finding his wing partner, the fast-supporting Henry Hadfield.

The powerful Cumbrian, not for the first time in the game, raced clear down the centre before passing to centre Connor Wilkinson, who finished off with aplomb. Smith converted to take his side to the break with a 40-5 lead.

Six minutes into the second half, Fylde extended their advantage with a classic Carleton try.

From inside their own 22, forwards and backs worked the ball left to reach the former Kirkham Grammar student.

He raced along the touchline, swerved around a desperate defender on the halfway line and there was no catching the speedster. Greg Smith missed the subsequent conversion.

Again South fought back and in the 50th minute hooker Reece Harris forced his way over for a good try. Glasse added the extras to reduce the deficit to 45-12.

Two more excellent long-distance Fylde tries were to come. In the 55th minute, Carleton fielded a loose ball deep inside his own half and drifted imperiously past a couple of South’s advancing troops before finding Hadfield on the halfway line.

He stormed along the touchline before passing inside to Wilkinson, who in turn found the fast-supporting Smith.

The fly-half was clear and finished off this lovely move under the posts, converting his own try.

The final score came in the 68th minute and started 10 metres from Fylde’s own line.

They moved the ball right to Hadfield, who once more burst clear down the middle.

He linked with Smith, who in turn found Carleton and the winger raced clear to finish under the posts for his hat-trick, taking his try tally for the season to 22. Smith’s seventh conversion completed the scoring.

With leaders Hull Ionians slipping up at home to Sedgley Park and Huddersfield receiving a sharp lesson at Stourbridge, Fylde strengthened their promotion challenge.

Victories in their remaining five games will secure at least a place in the second v third play-off for the Woodlands club. However, four of their remaining games are against top-six rivals, starting at home to second-placed Chester on Saturday week.

South Leicester, meanwhile, will need a Houdini-like escape to avoid relegation as they are 15 points adrift of safety.

FYLDE: Wilkinson, Hadfield, Briers, Fowden (Forster 58), Carleton; Smith, Crampton; Rodd (Lewis 56), Gregory, Ford, Parkinson, Ashcroft (Garrod 58), Vernon (O’Ryan 48), Dugdale, Conner; not used: Loney.