Fylde win first away game of season at Ionians
Hull Ionians 29 Fylde 31
The difference between Fylde's home and away form has puzzled most onlookers. They have achieved some notable and attractive victories over high flying National One opponents such as Plymouth Albion, Ampthill and Coventry at the Woodlands. But on the road they have struggled to show anything like these levels of performance. All ten previous away games this season had been lost, continuing a run of six similar defeats last season. In dismal and damp conditions at a sparsely attended Brantingham Park they achieved a narrow victory over Hull Ionians, picking up a bonus point through their five tries and moving up to 12th in the table.
The lead changed hands seven times in a roller coaster of a game and Fylde triumphed thanks to a 72nd minute try by flanker Evan Stewart, back after missing two months through injury. But the scoring headlines were grabbed by winger Scott Armstrong who repeated his performance at the Woodlands back in October when he scored a hat trick of tries against Ionians. No doubt the former Leeds Carnegie and Northampton player would like to play against the Yorkshire club every week!
Fylde began the game in the best possible way. A misdirected Ionians kick in the 1st minute was fielded by Armstrong and, after a couple more phases by his forwards, no 8 David Fairbrother ploughed over for the opening try. Fly-half Greg Smith converted for a 0-7 lead.
In the 8th minute Ionians' own prolific try scoring winger, Sam Wilson, got into the act. Fellow winger Dan Tai Sen Chow started the move and Wilson finished it off smartly for his 10th try of the campaign. Centre Lee Millar converted the try to level the scores. Tai was injured in the move and was replaced by fellow speedster Aquile Smith.
Almost immediately, Fylde took the lead when Armstrong broke the defensive line down the blind side for his opening try. Smith added the extras for a 7-14 advantage. When a Fylde player offended a few minutes later Millar kicked the subsequent penalty to reduce the deficit. Ionians then took the lead at the end of the first quarter when Wilson grabbed his 2nd try, once again converted by Millar.
It was Fylde's turn to attack and in the 26th minute they threw long at a line-out, a productive source of possession all afternoon. A couple of close range sorties into the home defence followed before attacking the vulnerable blind-side allowing Armstrong to score again. Greg Smith missed the conversion but his side had their noses in front at 17-19.
Hull flanker James Stephenson was sinbinned immediately afterwards and Fylde took advantage when Armstrong scored his hat-trick try, earning his side a bonus point in the process, just before half-time. Smith converted and Fylde trooped off to the changing rooms with an encouraging 17-26 lead.
The 2nd half saw Ionians raise their game and dominate possession and territory. They reduced the gap immediately when Aquile Smith darted over in the corner for the home side's 3rd try. Millar missed the conversion from wide out but his side was just four points in arrears.
The game became more tense in the 46th minute when Fylde's Adam Lewis was sinbinned for what was judged as a 'no arms' tackle and Ionians pressed deep in Fylde's half. Four minutes later Ionians took advantage when a collapsed scrummage led to a penalty try against Fylde and with Millar's conversion they re-took the lead at 29-26.
With Lewis' return, Fylde increased their intensity and effort as they dominated the last 15 minutes of the match looking for that much needed victory. With The Rugby Paper's Man of the Match Fairbrother at the front of numerous attacks, they threw the kitchen sink at Ionians. A lineout and driving maul in the 72nd minute proved conclusive as Evan Stewart broke off the side and powered over for the try. Greg Smith was unable to kick the conversion but his side held out during the last tense 10 minutes to claim the victory.
Fylde Head Coach Paul Arnold said: “We are all delighted to have got that particular monkey off our back. It was a real dog fight in unpleasant conditions. The stakes were high and it certainly wasn't pretty. This was the first leg of a relegation contest over two weeks. We face Blaydon in what will be another very tough contest at the Woodlands on Saturday and if we win that we'll have gone a long way to securing National One rugby on the Lancashire Coast for another season.
“Everyone contributed to the victory. The pack was excellent, with the backrow, particularly Fairy, outstanding. There was plenty of leadership on the field, especially for the first 20 minutes in the 2nd half when we hardly had any possession and it was a 'back to the walls' operation. The guys defended tirelessly, including against three or four driving mauls that were very dangerous. Then we worked our way upfield in the last 15 minutes and were able to get the crucial match winning try.
“More important than the game, we were all terribly sorry to hear about the death of Theodore, the 5 years old son of Ionians' physio Alan Silvester. Our hearts go out to him and his family for such a tragic loss.”