Warrington 3rd 33 Preston Grasshoppers 4th 27
HAVING already achieved promotion from Raging Bull, Division 3 South, Warrington’s third string crowned their most successful season ever by beating Preston Grasshoppers 4th Team to win the BEST Bowl on Finals Day at Burnage Rugby Club.
However, they had to dig deep defensively in a tense last forty minutes as Preston came back and threatened to overturn Warrington’s 30-8 half time lead.
Preston set out their stall from the kick off and their powerful pack soon forced a penalty in the Warrington 22 to give them a three point lead after just two minutes.
It was a full 10 minutes before Warrington touched the ball in anger and they squeezed the maximum out of the rare possession when their puppet-master Shaun McDermott put in a beautifully weighted cross-field kick which was snapped up by full-back Charlie McIlroy, who strolled over. Matt Drinkwater converted superbly from the touchline.
Warrington then started to fire up their turnover machine and, with Jon Hughes ruling the lines majestically and the front row providing set scrummage ball, the backs started to show off their talents.
Ironically, it was the forwards who engineered the second try when Jon Hughes surprised the Preston defence with a great turn of speed before passing on to Jon Bennett and the sometimes mobile prop crashed over.
The trusty boot of Matt Drinkwater then added a further three points to his side’s score through a penalty, before Jon Bennett again got on the score sheet when he breached the defence from short range. Drinkwater again converted.
Not to be out-done, fellow front rower Christian White added to the Warrington total when he bullied his way over after an excellent driving maul.
Preston finally managed to cross the Warrington line when their number eight picked up from an attacking set scrum but Warrington had the last word in the first half when Drinkwater kicked his second penalty.
With a 22 point lead, Warrington seemed to have the game already under their belts.
Unfortunately, Preston disagreed and they cut the deficit two minutes into the second period when their powerful prop shrugged off three tackles before handing on to his stand-off who touched down between the posts to allow an easy conversion.
Warrington were then reduced to 14 men when Ryan Carter was sin-binned and their woes were compounded when Jon Hughes, their line-out star, cut his head and had to be replaced.
Preston immediately exploited their numerical supremacy with a try from close in and the conversion took them within eight points.
Warrington then showed the character which has been their hallmark all season. Led by Phil Lynch, who consistently made the hard yards, they defended heroically and eventually forced a penalty, which Drinkwater converted to take their lead to 11 points.
Preston replied with a well-taken try from a cross-field kick but Warrington had just enough fuel left in their tank to hold out until the final whistle.
“What a superb way to end a great season,” said coach Lee Graham. “We had a great first half and managed to contain a powerful Preston outfit in a difficult second stanza. I am very proud of every member of a very special squad.”