By Richard Sykes
Huddersfield RUFC could be excused for having a spring in their step after a 19-13 victory over Preston Grasshoppers gave them a third successive win.
It was Will Milner’s kicking that proved pivotal as Field boosted their bid for survival in National 2 North and moved out of the drop zone for the first time this season.
After the game Huddersfield’s director of rugby Gaz Lewis said of the victory: “Full credit to Preston, they made us work hard for the win with 14 men. We were hoping that the opening couple of minutes would be a sign of things to come but we didn’t quite click into gear, with or without the ball.”
Despite a perfect start, which saw Field end the opening move of the match with a classy try, the team struggled to find their rhythm and achieve fluency but they maintained their lead and saw the game out.
What proved to be Field’s match winning moment in an error strewn game came straight from the first whistle. Fin Stewart fielded the opening kick deep inside his own half and made good yards. Eddie Brown continued the ground breaking work and three phases later Ethan Myers put centre Lewis Workman in for a try between the posts which Milner had no trouble converting.
Any early thoughts of a one-sided romp were swiftly dashed as Hoppers hit back with a try of classic simplicity. From a solid scrum the ball was passed briskly along the line at the end of which winger Will Clapham found the space and pace to go in at the corner. Fly-half Will Hunt missed the difficult conversion.
The Hoppers backs showed a readiness to attack throughout the match and two minutes after scoring his try Clapham came close to getting a second. The ball was grubbed through with Clapham winning the foot chase to the line but his failure to ground the ball cleanly led to his effort being disallowed.
As the first half progressed the endeavors of both teams were dogged by careless mistakes which spoiled the flow of the game. Field had the upper hand in the scrummages and pressured their visitors into a series of penalty concessions, with Milner landing one on 16 minutes to extend the lead.
Hoppers’ No8 Scott Richardson was shown a red card 25 minutes into the game for foul play. Myers, the recipient of his unwelcome attention, also had to leave the pitch on account of the injury he sustained. Lewis Bradley moved from flanker to hooker to replace Myers, with Tom Jones coming off the bench to fill the back row berth.
To their credit 14-man Hoppers continued to compete well as Field tried to press home their numerical advantage. The first half ended with Field camped on the Hoppers’ line. Penalties were conceded as the hosts tried to drive a series of scrums and mauls over the whitewash but eventually Hoppers managed to turn the ball over to see the half out.
The scores were level three minutes into the second half when flanker Ben Dorrington touched down in the corner for Hoppers after the ball was grubbed in goal to round off the opening play. Hunt was wide of the mark with his conversion attempt.
Field produced their best rugby of the match after the early second half set back with brothers Fin and Kian Stewart, on opposite wings, looking dangerous whenever the ball reached them. Although Field failed to find the try-scoring edge Milner kept the scoreboard ticking with three successful penalties to establish a nine-point lead going into the final quarter.
Huddersfield lock Eddie Brown saw yellow just four minutes into it and when Hunt landed the subsequent penalty the scene was set for a nail-biting finish.
Both teams produced threatening moments as the final minutes ticked by but scoring potential was thwarted by good defending or fell victim to mistakes and the game ended with no further points.
On Saturday Huddersfield travel to Harrogate who are two places below them. Lewis is expecting an equally tight game. A win will go a long way towards easing any relegation worries he may still harbour.