Fylde went down 16-10 against a Sheffield Tigers side who are already becoming a bogey team for the Woodlands club.
This was only the third game between the clubs but the Tigers completed a double victory in two very tight matches last season – and it was more of the same at a bleak Dore Moor ground this time around.
Fylde had the better of the first half and deservedly led at the break but a show of determined forward power by the Tigers in the second period ground down the visitors.
Being reduced to 13 players with two of them in the sinbin by the 67th minute was too much and the Tigers exploited this with a late try and a penalty goal.
A losing bonus point was Fylde’s only consolation, and although they maintain their second place in National Two North, the chasing pack of clubs are closing in.
Although the personnel in both squads is relatively unknown to each other, one fact learned from last season is that it’s dangerous to give the Tigers fly-half, Mark Ireland, too many opportunities to kick goals.
He filled his boots in the two games last season and he was to make another vital contribution on this occasion.
Two early penalties were committed by Fylde, and from the second in the seventh minute, Ireland stroked the ball between the posts for a 3-0 lead.
The initial travails of the Fylde pack were visible early on when their scrummage was driven backwards for another penalty awarded by referee Nikki O’Donnell.
But Fylde started to take control from then on and dominated possession and territory for the rest of the 40 minutes.
They sorted out their scrummage and impressively won the ball against the head.
In the 20th minute, a neat break by scrum-half Adam Lanigan made progress into the Tigers’ half.
His half-back partner, Greg Smith, put in a deft chip to the left with winger Tom Grimes gathering the ball well and scoring in the corner.
Fylde were playing down the slope – but against the wind – in the first half and Smith’s attempted conversion from wide out was too tricky but they still had a 5-3 lead.
Some backchat from a Tigers forward didn’t impress the referee, and from the subsequent penalty to the corner, the Fylde maul was halted as the Tigers turned the ball over and cleared the danger.
This was a temporary reprieve for the home side as Fylde went further ahead on the half-hour after concerted pressure.
Centre Connor Wilkinson was stopped short of the tryline but hooker Ben Gregory picked up the loose ball and drove over for his side’s second try.
Once again, kicking into the wind proved too much for Smith and the attempted conversion fell short.
Some of Fylde’s gilt rubbed off a couple of minutes later when they offended in their own half and Ireland kicked his second penalty to make it 10-6 at half-time.
Fylde had enjoyed the benefit of the sloping pitch in the first half so the question was how the Tigers would respond playing down it in the second period and with such a close score?
The answer was very clear as the home side upped their game and dominated the second half.
Fylde fell back on defence as the muscular Tigers pack took control.
Alex Loney had replaced flanker Ben O’Ryan at the interval but he was soon struggling with injury and was replaced in turn by Matt Ashcroft.
Ireland had a chance to reduce the deficit but, for once, his kick drifted wide.
The pattern of Tigers domination continued as the Fylde defence had to repeat last week’s heroics against Sedgley Park.
The pressure on the Fylde line was acute and Ben Vernon was adjudged to have offended at a ruck and was sinbinned.
This was compounded shortly afterwards in the 67th minute when Gregory joined Vernon in the bin following a high tackle.
After more sustained pressure, Fylde’s 13-man dam burst and Tigers’ player-coach Jamie Broadley scored the crucial try in the corner.
Ireland’s conversion was excellent and Tigers had fought their way into a 13-10 lead.
He extended this in the 79th minute with another well directed penalty kick.
With little ball to play with, Fylde struggled to exert concerted pressure on the Tigers’ defence and the home side ran down the clock for a 16-10 victory.
Although Fylde retained their second place in the division, they will need to re-group ahead of the trip to local rivals Preston Grasshoppers on Saturday in the annual pre-Christmas derby collision.
Smith stays at the top of the ranking of leading pointscorers in N2N but is joined by Ireland on 161 in 15 matches.
In the top 10 tryscorers list, Tom Carleton is equal third with 12 tries and Grimes one behind on 11.
Fylde: Wilkinson; Carleton, Briers, Rawlings, Grimes; Smith, Lanigan; Horner, Gregory, Lewis, N Ashcroft, Parkinson, Vernon (Forster 74), O’Ryan (Loney 41, M Ashcroft 46), Conner. Non-playing replacements: Wild, Botha.