Match report: Fylde RFC 21 Old Albanian 31

Fylde started this National One basement battle with dash and flair, established a 14-0 lead in the first 10 minutes but fell away badly after that.

Sunday, 4th March 2018, 3:14 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th March 2018, 3:45 pm
Tom Carleton scores for Fylde Picture: Rob Lock

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Old Albanian battled back, controlled the second third of the match and led by halftime. Fylde regained the initiative and the lead with 20 minutes to go but wasted this effort by conceding two late tries to lose their 11th home match of a very difficult season. The fact that the game was played at all was extraordinary. There were 24 National League games scheduled to take place in the three divisions on Saturday but only three survived, with Fylde the only game north of Leicestershire to go ahead. By kick-off, the Woodlands pitch was dry and eminently playable, testament to excellent work by the ground staff.Fylde attacked from the off and earned a couple of penalties for offside against the pressing Albanian backs. As early as the second minute, the ball reached full-back Tom Carleton, who set off at the heart of the visitors’ defence with his usual directness and pace. He burst through one tackle, then another to race 50 metres to score under the posts. Old Albanian continued to give away penalties for a variety of offences in these opening exchanges. By the ninth minute Fylde were back deep in their opponents’ half. The forwards drove forwards, sucking in defenders before the ball was moved left. Lock Olli Parkinson made ground before shipping a simple pass to prop Adam Lewis and he delighted in slipping through a hole in the Albanian defence to score with ease. From near the touchline and into the strong easterly wind, fly-half Greg Smith curled a lovely kick which just cleared the bar to give the home side a 14-0 lead.Albanian came back strongly and started to put serious pressure on the Fylde defence. The penalty decisions started to go against the home side and on the quarter-hour OA fly-half Tom Bednall had a straightforward chance to kick a penalty from almost in front of the posts. He missed it and it appeared this was going to be Fylde’s day.Fylde had trouble throughout the game in earning turnover ball at the tackle breakdown. By now, the OA forwards were recycling effectively and Fylde struggled to get their hands on the ball. In the 24th minute, the pressure paid off for the visitors as they sucked in defenders and moved the ball left for flanker Harry Elbrow to crash over for his side’s opening try. The conversion was missed but the deficit was reduced to 14-5.It was Elbrow’s last contribution as he was injured minutes later and was helped off to be replaced by Andrew Christie. Five minutes later, the replacement was the beneficiary of an extraordinary lapse of concentration by Fylde. A penalty was rather harshly given against David Fairbrother as he drove forward on the Fylde 22m line.And with the home players standing around, Christie took the tap and stepped his way through for the softest of tries. Bednall converted to make the score 14-12.Albanian really had the bit between their collective teeth as they piled forward in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Following more penalties, OA attacked down their left, and lock and skipper Ross Hamilton forced his way over from close range to claim the try. Bednall converted well for OAs to take a 14-19 lead. There was still time for OA to mount another attack before the break and inflict more damage on the home side as Nick Ashcroft was sent to the sin-bin.The game was evenly balanced after the restart, with play shifting from end to end. Fylde still found numerous ways to waste possession, making several handling errors, but with Fairbrother and Parkinson to the fore, they battled back into the match. In the 49th minute it was the turn of an Albanian player to be sinbinned, when prop Charlie Hughes offended.Ten minutes later Fylde were awarded a penalty and Smith kicked for the corner. From a fierce, driving maul Fairbrother claimed the touchdown. With Greg Smith kicking the conversion, Fylde regained the lead at 21-19.The tight exchanges were evenly contested but in the 66th minute another Fylde error handed easy possession to the visitors. From a home scrummage on halfway, the Fylde pack drove the OA eight backwards but the visitors somehow emerged with the ball. Centre Dom Morris earned the gratitude of his team-mates when he found a way through some indifferent Fylde tackling to touch down near the posts for a bonus-point try. Bednall added the conversion for OA to retake the lead at 21-26.Minutes later Fylde’s misery was compounded by another error which was exploited by the Albanian backs. Full-back and leading tryscorer Nick Foster was set free down the left touchline and outpaced the Fylde defence to score an opportunistic try. Bednall was unable to add the extras but his side had a 10-point lead which Fylde rarely threatened in the closing minutes. OA deserved to win the game if only because they made fewer mistakes.

FYLDE: Carleton, Hadfield (Fowden ), Briers, Wilkinson, Bailey; Smith, Nicholls; Lewis (Irving ), Gregory (Loney ), Irving (Richardson), Ashcroft, Parkinson, Vernon (McCarthy), Burtonwood (Hopwood, Burtonwood ), Fairbrother.