Second-half show earns Hull Ionians win over Preston Grasshoppers
HULL Ionians coach Gary Pearce hailed his side's second-half performance in the 33-20 victory over Preston Grasshoppers at Brantingham Park.
The visitors led 20-13 at half-time, but after the break Ionians' forwards gained the upper hand to collect the bonus-point victory.
Pearce said: "We knew Preston were a good team and would pose problems and they did, but in the first half we were awful, the lads played as though they were still on their Christmas break.
"At half-time I didn't say anything, they said it themselves, if they want to be a top team they have to play like a top team.
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"They came out after the break and did it, and scored 20 unanswered points."
Ionians opened their account after three minutes.
Back-of-the-match Isaac Green caught his opposite scrum-half at the back of the scrum and a failure to release saw Chris Reakes strike the penalty.
A collapsed scrum saw Sean Taylor reply but forward-of-the-match Kerry Wood then intercepted the scrum-half's pass on halfway and raced into the 22, where a deliberate knock-on saw Reakes add a second penalty.
Poor tactical kicking kept handing Hoppers the initiative, and then indiscipline conceded 10 metres to make the penalty easy for Taylor to level.
A fine run by man-of-the-match Mike Bateman was stopped at the line, but the forwards drove well at the five-metre scrum for Danny Hague to score, Reakes converting.
Hoppers then took advantage of their hosts' loss of discipline and scored twice.
A break by John Ward was completed by Adam Birchall, before a chip through took play to the line and saw Ward score, Taylor converting both to lead 20-13.
Ionians survived the 10 minutes with 14 men after the break before sustained pressure moved the ball wide, where Steve Johnson sent Sam Wilson dancing down the touchline to score, Reakes' touchline conversion levelling.
Ionians were now setting a much faster pace and, five minutes later, two penalties took them to the corner where Joe Makin took the line-out for the pack to drive Wood over to score and take the lead.
Ionians' much-improved tactical play kept Hoppers pinned back and a high tackle saw Reakes strike the penalty to go two scores clear.
A midfield scrum saw Hague break and send Jon Steel racing into the 22, but Hoppers defended well to deny a try.
In the final minutes, penalties again saw Ionians in the corner where an identical move saw Wood driven over again for the bonus point try to keep Ionians firmly in second place.