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Fylde win 15-12 against Stirling County
5:14pm Tuesday 19th August 2008 in Rugby
A last minute 50m trademark try by Oliver Brennand gave Fylde a 15-12 win against Scottish Premiership side Stirling County in a closely fought pre-season game at the Woodlands.
The game was played in four quarters and Fylde Director of Rugby Mark Nelson used 28 players during the 80 minutes.
The visitors dominated possession in the middle part of the game and led by 12-3 in the final quarter.
But Fylde upped their work rate and scored two late tries, one of them converted, to pinch the game.
Although the results of such pre-season games are of little consequence, the manner of Fylde's earlier dogged defence and attacking flair at the end of the game will encourage the club's rugby managers.
Fly-half Mark Edwards kicked a good penalty goal in the first quarter to give the home side a 3-0 lead.
Stirling County increased their work rate and took control of the game in the 2nd quarter.
Although Fylde had a noticeable advantage in the scrummages and frequently shoved the Stirling eight backwards, their lineout regularly misfired.
Stirling secured all their own lineout ball and stole numerous Fylde throws.
And the home side's ball retention at the tackle breakdown was rusty.
Some sloppy Fylde defence allowed the visitors to score a try directly from a tap penalty 10m from the Fylde line.
The conversion was missed but Stirling had a 5-3 lead.
At the beginning of the 4th quarter, the visitors extended their advantage with a smartly taken try through the middle of the Fylde defence.
This time it was converted and Stirling had a 12-3 lead.
But Fylde ratcheted up the pressure on the visitors.
A series of forward drives were held up by fierce Stirling defence.
Sam Beaumont, the outstanding Fylde forward, and debutant centre Dan Loader, were both held up over the line.
Eventually, from a Fylde scrummage ten metres out from the Stirling line, scrum-half Craig Aikman moved the ball left.
Fly-half Neil Hunter fed centre David Wiseman and he stretched out to score a neat try as County ran out of defenders.
Dan Loader, who had by now taken over the goal kicking responsibility from Edwards, missed the conversion so Fylde were still behind by 8-12.
As the final minute approached, Fylde manufactured possession just inside their own half.
The ball was passed along the backline to winger Oli Brennand who set off down the left touchline in typical mode.
He beat two defenders on the outside and raced up to the last defender.
He jinked outside his opponent and raced clear for a thrilling try behind the posts.
Loader converted for a 15-12 lead and the referee almost immediately blew for full-time.
With the tactic of regularly changing their line-up through the four quarters, Fylde were always going to lose something in continuity.
The advantage, however, was that Mark Nelson had a good chance to see a large number of players in proper competitive action against good quality opposition.
Home forwards who stood out as well as Sam Beaumont included powerful prop Andrew Irving and a combative back-row in which newcomers with limited senior experience, Alan Whittaker and Mark Stephenson, showed promise.
Among the backs Martin Wallwork, Craig Aitman, Neil Hunter, David Wiseman and Dan Loader all impressed and full-back Mike Waywell made some penetrative breaks.
Brennand always looked dangerous when he had possession.
It was also good to see the muscular Karl Long back in the claret and gold and if he's lost something of his pace of his youth then his strength and directness were notable.
And Alistair Atkinson also looked in fine fettle, both in this game and in the previous game for the Wanderers against Skipton.
Fylde's next pre-season game is against National Two club Tynedale on Saturday, 30 August.
Also on that day will be a challenge match between Fylde Wanderers and the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment based at nearby Weeton Barracks.
Fylde's Director of Rugby Mark Nelson was pleased with his squad's display against Stirling County.
He said: "It was a very successful day, both against Stirling and the young Wanderers side's performance against Skipton.
"It was particularly good to come up against a side from a rather different league environment and who play a different style.
"They've been playing with the new Experimental Laws for a period and it showed.
"We learnt a lot - about individual players and about areas in which we need to improve.
"For instance, Stirling showed better contact skills at the tackle breakdown.
"Our lineout was shaky but we've changed the system since last season so players are having to get used to it.
"But this was our first competitive game of the season and we have three weeks to address these and other issues.
"They were a number of positives too. We competed well and were very physically committed.
"Stirling were impressed by the power of our forwards and it was a rather more physical battle than perhaps they anticipated.
"But there will no doubt be a few bumps and bruises on Sunday morning and they'll have to shake them off in the next week or so."