Sedgley Tigers 14 Fylde RFC 22: Fast start sets up away day victory
Fylde extended their unbeaten run to six games in National Two (North) with a hard-earned 22-14 win at Sedgley Tigers.
They outscored their hosts by three tries to two and, in doing so, lifted themselves to fourth in the table.
In such dire weather, it was hardly surprising that, despite a few instances of glittering movement, this was a game for rugby aficionados rather than casual spectators.
The win could prove costly for Fylde as they lost five players through injury during the 80 minutes.
Their injury list – already featuring David Fairbrother, Elliot Horner and Harlan Corrie – will test the depth of the squad available to head coach Warren Spragg and his colleagues.
A late change had seen fit-again centre Chris Briers step up from the bench in place of Ralph Dowds, who was struck down overnight through food poisoning.
Sedgley kicked off with the strong wind and rain at their backs and saw the ball reach full-back Tom Carleton.
He duly raced 80 metres through a startled opposition for an extraordinary opening gambit; at 15 seconds, surely the fastest try in English senior rugby yesterday.
With fly-half Greg Smith kicking the conversion, Fylde had a 7-0 lead in the first minute.
That launched a game featuring two sides who know each other very well.
Sedgley’s starting XV included the familiar faces of Danny Maher, Mark Goodman and Steve Collins, while Fylde had four former Sedgley players in their ranks – Briers, Smith, Adam Lewis and Olli Parkinson.
Lewis, back in the visitors’ ranks following the birth of his son, was next on the scoresheet when he drove over for his second try of the season in the seventh minute.
Smith again converted and Fylde led 14-0 but the Tigers got a foothold three minutes later when Matt Riley crossed and Collins converted.
Fylde suffered serious blows in the 22nd minute when, defending Sedgley pressure, Tom Grimes and Cameron Crampton were injured and replaced by Luke Fowden and Adam Lanigan.
With Grimes and Crampton still receiving treatment, and before their replacements had entered the fray, Sedgley exploited their two-man advantage as Jimmy Lloyd powered over the line for their second try.
Once again, Collins’ conversion kick was successful and he made it 14-14.
Despite this setback for Fylde, they were shading the first half as their scrummage caused Sedgley difficulties.
In the 33rd minute, they regained the lead with more opportunism from Carleton.
This time he received the ball just inside the Sedgley half, put in a neat grubber kick behind the home defenders and beat two of them to the line to get the touchdown.
This time, Smith was unable to add the conversion but Fylde had a useful half-time lead of 19-14.
If Fylde shaded possession and territory in the first 40 minutes then the Tigers reversed this in the second half despite playing into the wind and rain.
Fylde prop Jonny Wild retired injured at the break and was replaced by Bevan Rodd, while Nick Ashcroft replaced Matt Garrod early in the second half.
Conditions were fast deteriorating but the Fylde defence was effective against the home side’s pressure.
Ben Vernon was withdrawn in the 65th minute but made a swift return in place of the next Fylde casualty, Ashcroft, a few minutes later.
The crucial moment was in the 70th minute when the excellent Fylde back row trio won a penalty within kicking distance and saw Smith do the honours.
The final whistle blew to end a rain-drenched arm wrestle in which it was tough for Sedgley to miss out on a bonus point.
However, this was a hard working display by Fylde who have recently shown a real steel in their play and an ability to win tight games on home and foreign soil.
With Preston Grasshoppers also in excellent recent form, the clash of the oldest of rivals at the Woodlands next Saturday should be a very tasty Christmas prospect.
Fylde: Carleton; Bailey, Briers, Wilkinson, Grimes (Fowden 22); Smith, Crampton (Lanigan 22); Lewis, Loney, Wild (Rodd 40), Parkinson, Garrod (Ashcroft 48), Vernon (Gregory 65), O’Ryan, Conner.