Hull Ionians 34 v Fylde 22
By Malcolm Knowles
I's bounce back to winning ways. RP report+.
With perfect conditions for this top of the table encounter, both clubs’ top men were eager to get their charges on to the pitch. Martyn Wood for Ionians said “We are glad to be back at Brantingham Park after three away trips that have ended in defeat and we are looking forward to taking on the new league leaders who, like us, enjoy playing rugby. We expect to be challenged up front, most sides seem to try that, but if we can match them in that area we should get the win”
Warren Spragg, DoR at Fylde, asked about the pressure of being top of the pile was philosophical about the challenges ahead. “ We didn’t expect to be in this position, after the start we had with a particularly shocking October. This fixture is a hell of a test, but all our remaining games are big games. We are just looking to improve and build our self-confidence and belief. It’s exciting times. Would we like another crack at National 1? Yes, of course, love it.”
The game, which Ionians won four tries to three, failed to match the enthusiasm and passion of the men in charge. More was expected from two sides of this pedigree, but an error strewn 80 minutes left a slightly flat feeling amongst supporters from both sides, despite the occasional moments of class from the peerless Tom Carleton.
Fylde made their intentions clear from the start when Ralph Dowds carved a hole through the Ionians defence to put centre partner Connor Wilkinson over, Greg Smith converted to put the visitors 0-7 in front.
Ionians struck back with two Lewis Minikin penalties before Smith stretched the lead for Fylde with success from the tee. Despite some elusive running from Carleton Fylde were unable to capitalise on a period of possession and Ionians then combined well to get within striking distance of the Fylde line.
A line-out was cleanly gathered by Ed Falkingham and driven on and over the line, with Ben Stephenson credited with the touchdown. Minikin struck a well judged conversion to take the lead for the hosts which they held to the break.
A flurry of activity on the hour saw the sides exchange scores; Ionians went over following a concerted forward effort affording them the chance to whip the ball out to Toni Kuku, who despite receiving a poor pass, was able to gather the ball and muscle his way over close to the flag. Minikin surpassed himself with a terrific conversion.
That good work was undone within a minute, with Fylde hitting back with a belter of a score, started and finished by Carleton. Smith added the goal to fetch the score back to 20 – 17.
Ionians enjoyed a slice of luck to extend the lead. Following a mistake in the Fylde defensive ranks Adam Brown found himself 10m out with ball in hand, showing commendable composure he dummied his way to the line and under the posts.
The hosts were then thankful for a try saving tackle from James Tinknell, before they made the game safe and claimed the bonus point, when fortune favoured Minikin as he followed up a kick forward from Ollie Fox to gather the bobbling ball and race over.
Winger Tom Grimes claimed a score for Fylde in the closing minute but it was little consolation as Ionians were well clear and saw time out to regain the top spot.
Warren Spraggs reflected after the game; “ We were a bit stretched today, without our usual 2, 8 and 13. We needed to be at our best to get anything from this match. I’s have taken 10 points off us this season and we can’t afford to give that away to top sides. We left some tries out there today and ended up kicking possession away. I am a bit frustrated.”
I’s Martyn Wood said “ We spluttered to the win today. It wasn’t a top of the table performance. It’s good to get back to winning ways but we won’t get carried away. We will just take each game as it comes.”
Next up come South Leicester, who visit Brantingham Park for the match postponed earlier in the month. They are floundering at the wrong end of the table and are fighting hard to avoid the drop, so Ionians can expect another testing encounter.