Rosslyn Park slipped to a 44-24 home defeat to Fylde on Saturday.
Fylde caught Park napping at the start, imposing their quick-running and passing game from kick off and set up lock Paul Arnold to go over, past some poor defending, to put the visitors 5-0 ahead with barely a minute on the clock and before Park had really got their hands on the ball.
Park replied by briefly setting up shop in the Fylde 22, gaining a penalty out wide which fly half Ross Laidlaw hoofed to touch, and from the lineout Stanley McKeen made a commanding catch and set up Laurence Ovens to nearly get over.
Fylde sinned again and Laidlaw hammered over for 5-3, though there was a lengthy hiatus as one of the touch judges failed to signal it, and the referee initially disallowed the kick, provoking protest from the Park players and the spectators behind the posts.
Any thoughts that this might herald a Park comeback were dashed when another sweeping move, aided and abetted by a litany of missed tackles, caught Park out and Fylde winger Ollie Brennand dashed in up the left, Richard Kenyon converting to make it 12-3 on 11 minutes.
There followed a period of extended madness in the home defence as missed, or simply absent, tackles saw the visitors run rings round them.
As Karl Marx observed in another context: history tends to repeat itself, the first time as tragedy the second time as farce – though the defending was more like those other Marxes, Harpo and Groucho, as visiting centre Steve Briers helped himself to two ridiculously easy tries, the first of them converted, and Fylde had pocketed the four-try bonus before even 20 minutes were on the clock. At 24-3, Park had a mountain to climb.
Finally, settling to play some rugby themselves, Park looked good when going forward and gave notice of intent with a good attack up the right, but when the ball was whipped across the middle John Rudd’s outstretched fingers could only knock on.
The home side kept up the pressure, won a penalty from which Laidlaw kicked to the corner and on a repeat of the same routine Fylde tight-head, Alex Loney, was dispatched to the sin bin. From the resulting kick and drive, Ovens touched down for Park and Laidlaw converted for 24-10.
Fylde’s free-flowing style always looked dangerous, but for a while Park enjoyed slightly the upper hand and a good bullocking run by Ovens saw the ball spread wide where full-back Nev Edwards scampered over and Laidlaw converted with the final kick of the half for 24-17, with apparently all to play for after the interval.
Park did themselves no favours at the restart by conceding an early penalty which allowed Kenyon to stretch the lead to 27-10.
It was for now, though, an even contest. The visitors still played their trademark open attacking game and were always a threat, but Park, too, were making chances.
A good move saw Charlie Gower fling the ball wide to Rudd, but the winger could not outstrip the defence. A good kick saw Park back in the visiting 22, then a penalty led to a throw on five metres but Park failed to control the ball.
Fylde were now under real pressure and skipper Sam Beamont was the second player to be shown yellow. Park were quick to take advantage with full-back Nev Edwards making a darting run for a great individual try, Laidlaw’s conversion took Park within three points at 27-24 on 54 minutes.
That was as good as it got for Park. Fylde went up through the gears and a superb move up the left saw centre Mike Waywell go over with Kenyon converting to bring the score to 34-24 on 67 minutes. Park tried to recover but it never looked likely.
Given a kickable penalty three minutes from time, Fylde hoofed it to the corner and then drove the home pack back over their own line with consummate ease, replacement prop Simon Griffiths claiming the score for 39-24.
Then, with the last move of the match, Chris Briers completed a hat-trick for Fylde past a defence that seemed to have simply given up the ghost.
There were periods of the match that Park showed that they could compete on equal terms, but overall Fylde were much better on the day and the truth is that, since a gallant defeat at Jersey, Park have rarely looked more than a shadow of the team that stormed to the top of the table at the turn of the year.
Park: Edwards; Shabbo, Parsons, Robinson (Gower), Rudd; Laidlaw; Barr; Ovens (Marfo), Richmond (Gotting), Ward; Lloyd-Jones, McKeen; Rowland (Lock), Campbell, Trayfoot.
Sub (not playing): Baxter Park scorers: Edwards (2T), Ovens (T), Laidlaw (P, 3C)