Birmingham Solihull vs. Preston Grasshoppers– Kick Off 2.00pm
A couple of rotation situations within the pack together with the loss of Andy Napier sees the return of Will Keenan and Wayne Steel to the starting line up and a start for Brad Tuff with Phil Mills and Ali Murray taking a turn on the bench.
The backs keep the same line up as the last few weeks.
As for Hoppers opponents and according to their website, apart from Rob Connolly, who will serve his final game suspension following his red card against Dudley Kingswinford, the Bees will go into the match with a full squad to select from. The side is likely to be very similar to the one that faced Huddersfield last week.
1. Richard Morton,2. Brad Tuff, 3. Andy Irving, 4. Gareth Gore, 5. Wayne Steel, 6. Killian Wallace,7. Will Keenan, 8. Dominic Moon. Captain, 9. Craig Aikman. 10. Lewis Allen,11. Adam Birchall, 12. Jack Ward, 13. Phil Baines, 14. Matt Hughes, 15. Sean Taylor.
Replacements: 16. Phil Mills, 17. Danny Madden18. Ali Murray, 19. Josh Purnell.20. Ollie Farley,
Hoppers will be hoping the frost and snow predicted for this coming week don’t cause a second postponement of their trip to Birmingham thus allowing them the chance to extend their six match undefeated run which contains five doubles.
So after conquering Bromsgrove in a dour battle on a difficult surface, they’ll be hoping for similar success at Portway where they hold a similar undefeated League record.
Our hosts made something of a shaky start to the season with just one win to their name from the first six outings. The rather surprising ‘nilling’ of Sheffield Tigers at the start of 2013 ended a run of five games without a win and began a run of seven games during which they have lost just two, at Hull Ionians and at home to the ‘up and down’ Leicester Lions.
The Midlands outfit are finding life rather easier at Level Four than past seasons have been for them, when not being relegated at the end of a season they have had only a brief respite. Recent weeks have seen them claw their way from the danger area.
The last time the two clubs met in league action with Hoppers as the visitors, was at the Sharmans Cross Road ground back in the 1999-2000 season when the Midlanders gave Hoppers XV a sound beating by forty five points to nineteen. This was during a period of ascendancy for the Bees and they gained promotion that season whilst Hoppers were coming to terms with National 1 rugby in their first season at that level.
Not only have Birmingham Solihull been on an adventure in the upper leagues, they have also had a name and couple of home changes after planning problems and subsequent liquidation forced them away from Sharmans Cross Road. Portway is their new home, or should we say their new old home! The ground adjacent the M42 was the home of the old Birmingham club before they amalgamated with Solihull back in 1989. Add to this that they have added ‘Limited’ to their name and dropped the word ‘Football’ recently and you will realise they have had a complicated existence over the last twenty three years.
The old Sharmans Cross Road ground doesn’t hold particularly good memories for many Hoppers players and supporters as not only was it a venue the team never won at (a thirteen all draw being the best effort) but it was the venue for Wade Dooley to make his bow from competitive rugby.
The travelling band of 1869 Club supporters also had a bad experience making their way there on one occasion. Our navigator, ignoring suggestions regarding a change of address (pre-Sat. Nav. days obviously) duly guided the driver to Portway, where a rather bemused gathering of players informed us that Birmingham Solihull RUFC had flit! After spending rather too much time in a City centre hostelry over lunch, already running late and without any proper directions we headed generally in the direction of Solihull, the new name of the club being a clue. With kick off time getting closer and now totally lost, the party decided help was required and after stopping the coach, flagged down a taxi and paid the driver to pilot us to the ground. Arriving after the game had kicked off and with points already on the board, things didn’t get any better as Hoppers lost and our President and party were given short shift in the Clubhouse some time after the end of the game being asked, “are you lot still here” not too light-heartedly by his counterpart!
Games against Birmingham RFC began back on the 9th of September 1967 when Hoppers travelled south defeating the home side by seventeen points to three and upsetting Birmingham’s celebrations after the opening of their new ground. A total of twelve contests took place before the amalgamation with Solihull, Hoppers winning five including the one and only league match at Portway to the Midlanders seven successes.
Games against the now defunct Solihull rugby club began on the 7th of October 1978 at Lightfoot Green with the home team beginning an undefeated run of five games against this particular opposition. These games included one drawn game and the only league meeting between the two sides a couple of seasons before the merger.
Once Birmingham Solihull was formed things went well for the Hoppers winning the first three meetings before a drawn game during the 1995/6 season turned things round, our opponents going on to win all but one of the seven games to follow until Hoppers victory at Lightfoot Green earlier this season.
So if you gather all the various teams that can be associated with next weeks opponents under one collective, results couldn’t be any closer with both teams having won thirteen games each plus a couple of draws thrown in for good measure.
Around the teams
It’s crunch time for Hoppers 2nd and 3rd XV’s this week as they are in cup semi-final action.
The 2nd XV face a tricky trip to Burnage 2 whilst the 3rd XV will be up against it at Warrington 2.
The 4th XV are in league action at league leaders Liverpool Veterinary School.
Home fixtures this week see the 5th XV host Fleetwood 3 and the 6th XV host Carnforth 2. Both games kick off at 2pm to allow the sides to watch the England vs Wales game at 5pm.
Picture courtesy of Mike Craig.