Loughborough Students 44, Fylde 22
Fylde’s 14-match winning run stretching back to November was halted by a fired-up and well-drilled Loughborough side, who ensured the Woodlands champagne remains on ice for a further week.
The silver lining is that Fylde can now seal the National Two North title with victory on their own turf this Saturday – and it would be the shock of this or any other season if a rock-bottom Manchester side who have lost all 25 league matches prevent them from doing so.
This defeat at the hands of the only club with a mathematical chance of overtaking Fylde means that a maximum of four points are still required from the remaining three matches to bring title glory to Ansdell. One match will surely be enough.
All that considered, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Loughborough’s will to win was stronger than Fylde’s as the early-season leaders race for runners-up spot and a promotion play-off.
On a rock hard pitch in very warm conditions, both teams were committed to playing the expansive game which has served them so well throughout the season.
The visitors’ back line was missing the injured Mike Waywell, a hat-trick hero against Westoe the previous weekend, Stephen Briers and Nick Royle, but it was poor discipline and indifferent tackling which cost Fylde dear as the Students roared into a 24-3 lead inside half an hour at their university ground.
The fourth-placed Students flew out of the blocks with tries from captain William Warden, Russell Weir and Chris Kinloch.
Loughborough closed down the visitors’ space in the first half and their tough tackling forced numerous mistakes.
Fylde conceded no further points before the interval, but had only a solitary penalty from fly-half Steve Collins to show for their efforts during a half in which their hosts dominated possession and territory.
The second half started better for Fylde, and despite losing Paul Arnold early to the sin-bin they scored two rumbling forwards’ tries from the hard-working Steve McGinnis and Mark Stevenson.
But in between these scores Loughborough had added a fourth try and two penalties as the scored moved to 37-15.
Craig Holland scored that bonus-point try on 48 minutes, with Matt Keville keeping the scoreboard ticking over with the conversion and two more penalties.
Fylde started to gain some ascendency as Loughborough’s energy-sapping earlier efforts in the heat took their toll.
A fine individual try from Callum McShane, following a jinking run, gave Fylde hope of a bonus point of their own with three minutes remaining.
However, Loughborough broke clear to score the final try wide out, leaving Fylde a little more work to do before their National One status is confirmed.
Fylde: Wallwork; McShane, Kenyon, Ward, Brennand; Collins, Aikman; Livesey, Holmes, Altham, Arnold, King, Stephenson, McGinnis, S Beaumont