Fylde 10, Rosslyn Park 16
ON Remembrance weekend, this was very much a match to forget.
And it also showed what a thoroughly unpredictable sport rugby union can be.
Fylde had scaled the heights the previous week with a five-star display against Coventry, but they were very much brought down to earth on Saturday. They had scored seven tries against Coventry but there was never much hope of a repeat performance.
That was largely because they come up against a Rosslyn Park side whose diligence in defence was exemplary – they covered superbly, particularly in the first half.
Though Oli Brennand did escape for one try, Rosslyn Park dealt with his threat for the rest of the game, denying him any room to unleash his turn of foot.
They also nullified the threat of centre Chris Briers, who had nothing like the freedom he had enjoyed seven days before.
Fylde were also without Mike Waywell and Nick Royle in their back-line, both notable omissions.
Their coaches were unhappy with referee Jason Bessant’s handling of the scrums and mauls, feeling that the slowing down of play worked in Rosslyn Park’s favour and was dead against Fylde’s approach.
The visitors were dominant in the scrums and lineouts, and as the match wore on the more Fylde’s attacking potential melted away.
That had not been the case in the first half, when Fylde displayed some fine approach work but missed out on applying the finishing touch, not least because of the determination in the visitors’ defence.
On an afternoon when Fylde’s dangermen were shackled, the hard-working Evan Stewart maintained a high standard throughout and forward Tom Lavelle, making his 50th appearance, had a positive impact in the loose.
Debutant Gavin Cartmel looked unfazed on his debut at full-back, running strongly in the early stages and showing an eye for a pass, though he later faded as an attacking option. Rosslyn Park hit Fylde hard early on, and after several waves of attack they won a penalty which was goaled by fly-half Ross Laidlaw.
Fylde struck back with a superb try after 12 minutes. From a penalty, Paul Arnold bashed a big hole in the Park defence, then smooth handling down the line ended with Richard Kenyon feeding Brennand with a peach of pass.
Brennand needed no second invitation to glide over at speed for a try goaled by Kenyon. Both sides were prepared to fling the ball around at pace as the visitors countered with a neat move, but winger Stephen Parsons coughed up the ball in a threatening position.
Fylde came close to a second try when the enterprising Stewart sneaked away on the blindside of the scrum and nearly worked his way over, but Park stole the ball as a score looked on the cards.
The energetic Stewart was again at the forefront of another excellent Fylde attack.
The ball was spun wide by Kenyon, but his pass hit Brennand on the shins and went into touch with the try-line just yards away.
Rosslyn Park then reduced Fylde’s advantage to a single point with a penalty on 33 minutes, the home team no doubt ruing their failure to capitalise on their territorial advantage with another try.
Gareth Rawlings barnstormed forward and then executed an inch-perfect pass to Steve Depledge, who was hauled down unceremoniously before he could reach the line.
Sam Russell was then knocked into touch feet from the line to frustrate Fylde further as half-time arrived with the score still 7-6.
There was stalemate in the first ten minutes of the second half, the tempo stalled by the laborious way referee Jason Bessant policed the scrums, where Rosslyn Park were getting the clear edge.
The entertainment quotient had slumped and it needed something to brighten the contest up. Unfortunately for Fylde, it was Rosslyn Park who provided it after 55 minutes, scoring from their first attack of the half.
After their No.8 Mark Lock had taken the ball back inside, Laidlaw opened up the defence and sent in winger John Rudd for a try. Laidlaw added the conversion and the whole momentum of the game had suddenly shifted.
Fylde’s afternoon went further downhill when Arnold was yellow-carded near the home try-line after 63 minutes.
And when Lavelle was controversially penalised in the tackle, Fylde argued the toss and were marched back a further ten metres. That put the penalty within kicking range for Laidlaw, who duly obliged to make it 16-7 on 67 minutes.
Fylde staged a late rally, Mark Stephenson making a quick break that almost caught Rosslyn Park off-guard.
Then for some obscure reason, Fylde decided to run the ball from a penalty close to the try-line, when a penalty would have earned them a bonus point. The ploy did not work, but Kenyon did go for goal – under instructions from the bench – when Rosslyn Park were next penalised near the posts in the second minute of stoppage time.
Kenyon slotted over the easy kick to signal the end of this affair, Fylde’s complaints about the referee going on well into the night and possibly beyond.
Fylde: Cartmel; Russell, C Briers, Waywell, Brennand; Kenyon, Depledge; Livesey, Roddam, Lavelle, Rawlings, Arnold, Stephenson, Stewart, S Beaumont.