HUDDERSFIELD produced their best performance of the season to stun high-flying Fylde 44-32 in a real thriller at Lockwood Park.
It truly was a sparkling display of champagne rugby by both sides on a sun-kissed day, as the lead changed hands no fewer than eight times and held the crowd – which included the former England captain Bill Beaumont – in raptures.
There was barely time to catch breath, as National III North title-chasing Fylde drew first blood in the opening minute with a penalty from their free-scoring fly-half Steve Nutt, who was to finish with a personal haul of 24 points.
But the Fylde No10 was matched point for point by Huddersfield’s very own ‘jewel in the crown’ Chris Johnson, who produced another telling display with his cultured boot and levelled the game within a minute of the re-start.
Young centre Matt Clarke, who has rapidly become Field’s top tryscorer (he has crossed eight times in just seven games), chased a Lee Paxman kick, and when highly-rated winger Nick Royle fumbled it, the Huddersfield Academy man stripped it from his grasp, pushed him off and raced behind the sticks.
Johnson added the conversion, along with two subsequent penalties to give the Lockwood Park men a 16-3 lead after only 17 minutes.
But the Red Rose men are not second in the table for nothing, and they hit back in dynamic fashion scoring two tries in three minutes, through Royle and his opposite wing partner Oliver Brennand, with Nutt putting his side ahead again with his two conversions.
Sterling work from the home forwards set up the position for Johnson to switch play out wide and Clarke managed to get his pass away in the tackle for Alex Shaw to scoot down the touchline and cross in the right corner; 21-17 to Huddersfield.
The lead was shortlived however, as Nutt again took advantage of some slack marking in the centre of the field and scythed through under the posts to send Fylde in 24-21 ahead the break.
The spectators had barely finished talking about the thrilling first half when Huddersfield re-took the lead again, almost from the kick-off, as quick released passes from front-runners Tony Stringwell and James Davies put Barry Jacobsz into space, and the powerful South African spotted a gap and blazed away to touch down by the left-hand corner flag, a try to which Johnson added a fine conversion.
The visitors were never going to lay down and roll over, however, and it was that man Nutt who put his side ahead for a fourth time, when he supported Wallwork and received the try-scoring pass to score his second touchdown, but this time he was off target with the extras although he knocked over a penalty to extend Fylde’s lead to 32-28 midway through the half.
Home hearts were sagging at this point, but Field’s talisman Johnson brought it back to a one-point game with his fourth penalty strike, quickly followed by a long-range effort for No5, and with five minutes left of normal time, slotted over a drop goal to give his team a five-point margin.
Huddersfield now had self-belief and on their next set of drives, Jacobsz – in his most telling display since joining the club – sealed a stunning victory when he powered his way over from close range for his second try in the right corner, Johnson again splitting the uprights with his conversion.
There was still some desperate defending to do, however, as the referee suddenly found eight minutes of overtime, but defend they did magnificently, and Huddersfield were, understandably, jubilant when the final whistle eventually went.
Huddersfield: Paxman (B), Shaw, Clarke (Mortimore 60), Paxman (L), Johnson (M); Johnson (C), Hinchliffe (Clayton 75); Slater, Davies (Gough 70), Stringwell, Hinchliff, Rhodes, Jacobsz, Whitehead, Sharpe (Sharrock 60). Sub (not used), Battye.
Fylde: Wallwork, Royle, Albinson, Hunter, Brennand; Nutt, Aikman, Lewis, Holmes, Irving, Atkinson, Ferguson, Bowman, Palmer, Beaumont. Subs: Scott, Stephenson, Wilks, Smith, Banks.
Referee: Chris Seeley (Rugby).