1st XV host Sandal

Date: 18 November 2015

Preston Grasshoppers vs. Sandal – Kick Off 2.30pm

Preston Grasshoppers play hosts to old rivals Sandal Rugby Club this coming Saturday, a club which holds sweet memories for many of Hoppers supporters and past players…………but more about that when we preview our visit to Standbridge Lane later in the season. This will be the first meeting between the two sides since that memorable day back in 1999.

It’s been quite a remarkable beginning to the season for the Yorkshire side who surprised many with a four-match unbeaten start before faltering at Huddersfield’s Lockwood Park. Recovery didn’t take long though as they lowered league leaders Sedgley Park’s colours for the first time this season just a week later. A win on the road at Chester was followed by a rather surprising reverse to fellow promotees Sale the following week.

Sandal’s last visit to Level 4 rugby ended in 2002, the same time Hoppers lost their National 1 status and it’s interesting to note who else was relegated from those two divisions at the end of that season. Following Hoppers into National 3 North, as it was then, was Waterloo with Rosslyn Park slipping into the Southern section. After a brief recovery, one club continued to slide whilst the other is now knocking on the door of promotion to the Championship with vast differences of financial backers over the last ten years or so most likely being the main factor. Following Sandal into the various Level 5 leagues were Morley, Whitchurch and West Hartlepool, with only Morley making a short visit for a couple of seasons before our visitors becoming the next of this group to rising again to this level in the league system.

Hoppers will head into the game with renewed confidence after an excellent win on the road at Luctonians last week. Injury and selection permitting, captain Andy Napier will lead the team out for his 50th 1st XV appearance on Saturday.

The first meeting between Preston Grasshoppers and Sandal took place just over twenty years ago with a club fixture taking place at Lightfoot Green on the 3rd of April 1993 when Hoppers ran out the victors by twelve points to the visitors three. A return fixture was made for the following season over in Yorkshire where the home side ran out narrow winners by four points in forty four.

The clubs didn’t meet the following season but came up against each other for the first time in league action on the 21st of October at Sandal where the home side won on the day by sixteen points to five.

All told there have been nine meetings between Hoppers and Sandal with honours equal and one match drawn. Amongst these, there have been six league matches in which Hoppers have won three to Sandals two plus a thirteen all drawn encounter.

One interesting fact arises through the period we last had fixtures with Sandal in that the inaugural game coincided with John Morgan’s first season as Head Coach and the final one, just a couple of games before his last game in charge!

Photo by kind permission of Mike Craig – 1st XV captain Andy Napier in action crossing the line against Harrogate last season

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