Park's defensive strategy wins the day over Fylde
A match between two of the most attractive attacking sides in the National League One ended up being a dour battle of defences on a rain-sodden pitch in strong winds.
On balance, Fylde had more of the attacking play, but Park’s superb defensive strategy won the day 16-7.
Despite the win, Park remain seven points behind leaders Doncaster Knights, who sneaked a 29-26 win at Tynedale.
Playing into a strong wind, after a scrappy opening Park settled to take the upper hand early on. From a scrum in the Fylde half, Park won a penalty which was kicked towards the corner.
They won the throw and drove to within a metre of the line. Winning another penalty, this time close to the line, Park opted for the scrum but a fine effort from Fylde turned it.
None shall pass: Park's defence holds firm to see off Fylde
Park were soon back and won a further penalty and this time fly half Scott Sneddon decided to make sure of the three points to give his side the lead on 10 minutes.
Fylde’s riposte was immediate. Their restart kick bounced awkwardly, eluding Park’s attempts to grasp it and Fylde full back Warren Spragg gathered it at top speed to scoot in for a try unmolested.
Fly half Chris Johnson added a conversion and suddenly the visitors held a 7-3 lead.
Park were soon back on the attack in the visitors’ 22 and had several drives at the line, resisted by some excellent defence.
However, Fylde had no answer when Sneddon received the ball, spotted a gap and ran a perfect angle to score near the posts. He converted his own try for 10-7 on 19 minutes.
Fylde ran the ball back at Park and, with the wind rendering clearance kicks almost redundant, they severely tested the home defence. A penalty was sent on the wind to the corner, but was successfully resisted.
Another throw close to the line saw Fylde knock-on. Even when Park gained a penalty they had difficulty in clearing their own 22.
Given a further penalty, Fylde opted to run it, but the attack was bundled into touch. But try as they might, the visitors simply could not break down Park’s pattern of defence.
Park finally broke out and took the attack back into the visiting 22, but when a Fylde defender put a boot to the ball it was back to the home try-line! With Park due to have the elements in their favour in the second half a 10-7 lead looked a pretty good base to work from.
Park had the first attack in the second period, but were very nearly caught by a searing counter-attack up the left by Fylde winger Oli Brennan, who got within two metres of the line before a superb try-saving tackle put him into touch.
Line-out: Park dominated the high play
Another solid attack saw the visitors close to the line, before a clearance by Sneddon sent the ball to the other end, where Fylde contrived to knock on.
Park forced a penalty and, against the run of play, Sneddon increased the lead to 13-7.
Four minutes later, Park had a scrum on the Fylde 10 metre line and again forced a penalty. Sneddon spurned the advice from the crowd to “go for the corner” to secure the three points that meant the visitors needed more than a converted try to rescue the match at 16-7.
Fylde came very close to getting one of those tries with a super attack but number eight Hugo Ellis brilliantly held up the man with the ball as he tried to touch down.
Fylde must have wondered what they needed to do to break down the defensive wall in front of them, but did not help their own cause when penalised for delaying the throw at an attacking line-out.
Park were far from out of the game as an attacking force, but found the wind working against them in blowing passes forward and technical errors were penalised as they tried to attack.
But there were no errors at all in defence.
Attack: Tom Howe takes the battle to Fylde
The last throw of the dice for Fylde came in the last minute, when they gained a penalty at which Park’s displeasure saw them marched back a further 10 metres to put Johnson within kicking range.
The three points would have at least given the consolation of a losing bonus point, but the wind intervened to ensure the kick did not reach the posts.
The win sees Park remain seven points adrift of leaders Doncaster, who won with a try in the last moment of the match at Tynedale, but there is now a 12-point gap to Fylde who remain third.
Park: Howe; Broughton, Hodgkinson, Staff, Vincent; Sneddon; Gash (Heeks); Liffchak, Bellamy, McKenzie (Lundberg); Bowley, Boyle (Ball); Shires, Broadbent, Ellis.
Subs not used: Wilkes, Gower.