Westoe vs. Preston Grasshoppers – Kick Off 2.00pm
With Hoppers Rugby League duo unavailable, Head Coach Mike Lough has had to make a couple of changes in the backs. Lewis Allen steps up from the undefeated second string to replace Sean Long and Michael Haley replaces Karl Fitzpatrick in the centres from last week’s bench. The forwards show just one change with Ally Murray taking a turn on the bench whilst Conor Murphy steps up to make his first start of the season. Matt Gargett takes the vacant spot on the bench and Rich Morton replaces Danny Madden.
1. Andy Irving, 2. Alan Holmes, 3. Chris Gale, 4. Gareth Gore, 5. Wayne Steel, 6. Conor Murphy, 7. Killian Wallace, 8. Dominic Moon, Captain. 9. Sam Kindred. 10. Lewis Allen, 11. Matt Hughes, 12. Jack Ward, 13. Michael Haley, 14. Phil Baines, 15. Sean Taylor.
Replacements: 16. Phil Mills, 17. Richard Morton, 18. Ally Murray, 19. Matt Gargett 20. Josh Purnell.
Hoppers will make the long trip to the North East this coming Saturday, paying a visit to Westoe up in South Shields hoping to continue the form they showed last week against Hull. Although it was the East Riding teams fourth defeat on the trot, they hadn’t been taken apart before last week.
A look at the league table this week shows Hoppers sitting in mid table and after last weekend’s resounding success, will be hoping to keep on climbing the league in the weeks to come with fixtures against teams below themselves.
The South Shields outfit have had their worst start to a season since promotion four years ago and are yet to record a victory. Their notorious Wood Terrace ground is usually a formidable venue for visitors with its considerable slope and vociferous home support so Hoppers mustn’t take anything for granted especially as Westoe have only played one home game so far this season and three of their defeats at the hands of teams in the top half of the table.
League fixtures against this weekend’s opponents began relatively recently when Westoe gained promotion into the National Leagues from North 1 at the end of the 2008/9 season. In the five meetings (one game being cancelled as the result would have been of no consequence) since their promotion, Hoppers won the first fixture at the joint rugby and cricket ground, lost the next two games but won last season’s encounter at Lightfoot Green by twenty seven points to twenty before being handed out something of a thrashing at Westoe in the return fixture. The North Easterner’s decline started after this game back in January, with only two victories from fourteen outings since, whilst Hoppers used the defeat as a spur which took them to within a point of a play off place.
Club fixtures between the two clubs go back to the 1975/6 season when Hoppers won at Lightfoot Green by thirteen points to four on the 11th of October. The total record of matches between the two clubs reads eight wins to Hoppers and four to Westoe with one game finishing ten points all during the 1980/81 season at Wood Terrace.
Wayne Steel, Hoppers Skipper from the last three completed seasons, will make his two hundredth 1st XV appearance in Preston Grasshoppers colours at Westoe.
Wayne started as a first team player back in the 2004/5 season after playing a good number of seasons in the lower XV’s at Lightfoot Green. One of many who have graduated through the Mini Junior ranks here in Preston, he made his debut against Liverpool St Helens at Lightfoot Green in the season’s opening league fixture. This was our one and only season in North 1 and when Wayne celebrated with his team mates at Abbeydale, Sheffield’s home ground on the 16th of April, we had won the league title. Rain effects courtesy of Sam Houston………….who else!
For the record, Wayne has played in one hundred and ninety nine games for Hoppers 1st XV making seven appearances off the bench and scoring a total of nine tries. Come on Wayne, time you made it into double figures! Of the 199 appearances, 174 have been in league games along with all his tries.
For anyone looking to make the trip to Westoe, we have been informed that there will be a two course lunch available (with wine) served at 1pm. Anyone wishing to take advantage of this, please contact Ian Watkins on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Westoe RUFC direct.
For those not making the trip up to the North East, there are a number of games being played at Lightfoot Green this coming weekend, all kicking off at 3pm.
Hoppers 2nds vs. Vale of Lune 2
Hoppers 3rds vs. Oldham 2
Hoppers 4ths vs. Liverpool Vet’s 1
Sunday sees the Senior Colts entertain Caldy in a Senior ‘A’ League fixture which has a 2pm kick off.