Chester are last up for Hoppers

Date: 27 April 2016

Preston Grasshoppers vs. Chester – Kick Off 3.00pm

There’s more at stake than a mundane end of the season game this Saturday at Lightfoot Green where on one hand Hoppers will be looking for revenge after an opening day defeat at Hare Lane, whilst our visitors have much more to play for with the loss of their National Leagues status at stake.

Garth Dew and his men will want to end the season on a high note despite Chester’s current situation and in so doing remove the current trend of results against the Cheshire side who have won all five encounters since their promotion to National 2 North.

With Huddersfield and Broadstreet already condemned to Level 5 rugby next season there’s just one more relegation place to be filled, with our visitors despite sitting just two places below Preston Grasshoppers, well and truly in the mix.

A slump in form during the last nine fixtures has seen Chester fall from a comfortable mid table position due mainly to just a couple of wins from their last nine outings, although the form of many teams in the bottom half of the table picking up since Christmas hasn’t helped their cause. They are now involved in a last day shoot out with four other clubs, apart from Sale who have a game in hand and are due to play a postponed game at Luctonians the following week if the situation demands.

Chester currently have 61 points, while others in the same predicament are Tynedale currently with 63 points who have Leicester Lions with nothing now but pride to play for as their visitors, South Leicester 61 points entertain bottom side Huddersfield whilst Sale and Sandal both on 60 points travel to Caldy and Luctonians respectively.

For Chester all this adds up to a bonus point win at Lightfoot Green and they’re safe, while anything less will have them nervously checking the other results from around the country at 4:30pm.

I can see all Chester’s fellow fighters winning this Saturday, so their fate lies in their own and of course Hoppers hands!

Preston Grasshoppers players, coaches and supporters will know exactly how their counterparts from Cheshire are feeling coming into this game as this time last season we were in a similar situation travelling to Hull with the feeling of relegation hanging over us. On that day Hoppers needed just a single point for survival and even if Hull defeated them and gathered the fourth try bonus point they wouldn’t have been safe as Luctonians and Birmingham Solihull could still overtake them.

As it turned out, Hoppers defeated Hull and they were relegated along with the already condemned Stockport. Birmingham Solihull’s win at Otley proved to be not enough to save them, whilst Luctonians also managed to escaped the drop.

A look back at last Saturday’s performance at Park Lane where Hoppers were all but swept away in the first half by a powerful and promotion seeking Sedgley Park, and we can recall a determined never say die second period performance giving Hoppers a four try bonus point, and recovery from what looked like being an even bigger score against them than the sixty two points conceded.

The previous time last Saturday’s losing margin was exceeded was last season at Lightfoot Green when Ampthill made their first visit to our Fulwood home and came away fifty seven points to nine victors whilst on the road a similar scoreline to Saturday’s was recorded at Hull Ionians during the 2010/11 season, the final whistle blew that day with Hoppers nursing their wounds after the home side had inflicted a sixty points to twenty one defeat on the visitors from Lancashire.

Before Chester’s promotion to National 2 North, the two teams last met in competitive action during Hoppers short stay in North 1 back on the 5th of February 2005 when a relatively comfortable away victory was achieved by twenty points to five completing the double that season for Hoppers. Since then a couple of pre-season ‘training’ fixtures have taken place, both at Chester’s ground with honours shared until the current series of league fixtures.

Games between the two clubs go back just over fifty years when the inaugural game took place at our Lea ground on the 23rd of October 1965 where Hoppers won by a single point in a game of thirty three. All told there have been twenty eight meetings between the two clubs with our opponents winning seventeen to eleven by ourselves.

Photograph courtesy of Mike Craig – A ‘bloody’ Harrison Moulding gets the scoreboard moving for Hoppers last Saturday at Sedgley Park with the second of their four tries.

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