1st XV host Harrogate

Date: 01 March 2015

Lewis Allen will be hoping for a little more freedom than he’s receiving here at Claro Road earlier this season.

Preston Grasshoppers vs. Harrogate – Kick Off 2.30pm

Team News

Garth Dew’s selection for this Saturday shows a number of changes from the squad that went close at Chester a couple of weeks ago.

Reece Tomlinson returns as does Phil Baines, Scott Jordan, Andy Napier together with Rich Morton who takes a place on the bench.

The full line up reads;

1. Tom McGuinness, 2. Phil Mills, 3. Pete Altham, 4. Reece Tomlinson, 5. Jack Banks, 6. Ally Murray (Captain), 7. Andy Napier, 8. Chris Taylor, 9. Sam Kindred, 10. Lewis Allen, 11. John O’Donnell, 12. Billy Woof, 13. Sam Russell, 14. Phil Baines, 15. Scott Jordan,

Replacements: 16. Jack Wilkinson, 17. Danny Madden, 18. Richard Morton, 19. Will Lees, 20. Mark Murray.

Harrogate have announced the following line up;

15. Barry Frost, 14. Sam Bottomley, 13. Lewis Minikin, 12. Kyle Dench, 11. Harry Parrish, 10. Joe Rowntree, 9. Danny Matthews, 8. Willem Enslin, 7. Kerry Wood, 6. Jonny Coser, 5. Tom Harvey, 4. Jake Brady, 3. Ben Reaveley, 2. Alain Yorke, 1. Andy Boyde.

Replacements: 16 Nico Nyemba, 17 Fraser Kirkley, 18. Steve Dewsnip, 19. James Morland, 20 Luke Edwards.


After having a weeks rest, Hoppers entertain old rivals from across the Pennines in the shape of Harrogate RFC this coming Saturday, and will be hoping for a much needed victory to ease them away from the relegation scrap just below them in the League Table.

Hoppers apart, it looks like a three horse race to avoid one of the two remaining relegation places. Whilst we were suffering defeat at the hands of Chester the other week, all three gained victories, with Birmingham Solihull’s win at Claro Road probably the most notable. Hull, ‘The Bees’ and Luctonians are separated by just a single point with just six games remaining, and as a word of warning Hoppers have still to travel to Luctonians and Hull so will have a big part to play in who survives and which clubs are relegated. It’s also fair to say that if they don’t start picking up winning points soon, Hoppers may well get dragged into the dogfight along with Leicester Lions and even Stourbridge who have a tough looking run in which includes a visit to Lightfoot Green.

Our fate is firmly in our own hands with half of our final six opponents involved along with ourselves in the fight for survival.

However having said all that, with very narrow defeats against their name to the top three sides in recent weeks, the demolition of highly placed Sedgley Park and a gritty win at Portway, they can go into the ‘Roses Clash’ full of confidence. In their last game at Chester, they showed their character, battling to the very end, with a penalty try in the closing minutes showing their resolve.

A look at the third relegation place last season in our league shows Sheffield Tigers finished on forty two points a total already surpassed by two of the three clubs currently locked together at the bottom end of the table. You can read into this that Stockport and the top two apart, National 2 North this season is very much stronger and a more even contest than the 2013/14 season.

To sum the situation up, it may well be that there’s a lot riding on the result of our final game of the season over in East Yorkshire where Hoppers face a resurgent Hull side and there might also be plenty riding on the games in Herefordshire and Stourton where Leicester Lions and Harrogate both visit that day.

Our visitors come into the game having lost their last four games, this after being in a position to challenge for one of the promotion places after their last victory at Otley in mid January. Hoppers can find empathy with Harrogate in that they have lost with the last play of the game in their last two games which have both been at home, a reflection of Birmingham Solihull, Huddersfield and Otley grabbing last minute wins at Lightfoot Green earlier this season.

Harrogate’s recent form is in stark contrast to a run of seven straight wins after defeat at the hands of Hull Ionians the week after Hoppers unsuccessful visit to Claro Road back in mid November. Rumours of a long injury list go with the four defeats.

Hoppers will want to right the wrongs of their visit to Claro Road last year where a dubious red card and try plus losing an influential player all early in the piece contributed to a disastrous trip into Yorkshire. Harrogate’s tactics that day were to put out the heaviest pack they could with the thought that this was Hoppers weakness. It will be interesting to see how things have developed since that dark day back in November.

Most people will know of Harrogate’s impending move to Rudding Park, a new site on the south side of the town which is rumoured to be ready to stage at least one 1st XV game before the end of this season. No doubt this will be confirmed one way or another very shortly.

The Yorkshiremen are one of our more regular opponents since league fixtures began back in 1987. Out of the twenty two matches played, Harrogate have won fourteen to our five with another three being drawn including both games in the 2000/1 season. Hoppers completed the double in Harrogate’s relegation season and recorded a victory at Claro Road for the first time since the one point victory in 2007/8. In fact this was only the second league victory at this particular place in West Yorkshire out of eleven attempts.

Our hosts did the double over Hoppers last season and everyone at Lightfoot Green will be hoping this fate won’t be duplicated in 2014/15.

With fixtures going back to the 1954/55 season the full record reads, Hoppers nine wins against Harrogate’s twenty five with five ending all square and seven being cancelled for various reasons from a sequence which started back on the 23rd of October 1954 at Claro Road.

Pictures courtesy of Colin Taylor.

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