Digger’s Season Preview

Date: 24 August 2021

Hopefully the terrible pandemic and its consequences hasn’t made any rugby clubs its victim, although inevitably there will have been human casualties for us all to come to terms with.

Therefore with the start of a new season just a matter of days away, this is probably an opportune moment to look ahead at our new, and some not so new opponents.

Along with ourselves, Otley RFC made the drop into the Northern Premier League and we look forward to the regular trip across the Pennines visiting Cross Green once again.

Macclesfield RUFC will be another club our supporters are familiar with having played in the same league for many years until the Cheshire side were relegated in April 2019.

There are a number of new venues for the travelling 1869 Club to visit in the shape of Burnage, York & Northwich, together with the long journey across to Northumberland near the end of the season where Alnwick RFC reside. The afore mentioned Burnage, York and Northwich gaining promotion from their different Level 6 leagues.

There are “Local Derbies” to look forward to in the shape of Blackburn, Burnage and Rossendale and those who travelled to Marl Pits back in 2017 will be hoping for better weather for their return visit as well as the pre-Christmas game at Wirral’s ground which was played under similar weather conditions. Whilst Preston Grasshoppers and Blackburn have had fixtures since 1921, they have never played league rugby against each other,  consequently have never met at that level of competition before. Also Burnage and Hoppers have never met in competition at 1st XV level.

Blaydon and Harrogate have taken Hoppers and Otley’s places in N2N whilst Morpeth, Carlisle and Ilkley were relegated from the league we are re-joining.

Billingham looked nailed on for promotion during the first half of the last season, remaining unbeaten for the first thirteen games before they suddenly collapsed, losing a straight five on the trot. They subsequently recovered beating promoted Harrogate in their last game before the season was prematurely brought to a close. Hoppers will be seeking revenge when they visit Greenwood Road for just the second time, as the home side were one of only two sides to beat them during their promotion season, Kirkby Lonsdale being the other.

Hoppers host Northwich for the opening game of the season whilst back in 2017 Hoppers travelled to Sandal and narrowly avoided an opening day reverse thanks to a late try from Matt Lamprey and a nerveless conversion from the touchline by Jake Squirrell deep into injury time to crown their debuts for the club.

The visit to Lymm was also a nervy one late in the season when Hoppers trailed at half time when their then fellow promotion chasers looked set for victory, but a sterling performance in the second half capped by a hat trick from ‘Lamps’ gave the visitors a much needed victory.

Whilst Hoppers are hoping for a swift return to National 2 North, there will be competition for places. Which with the re-organising of the league pyramid, may give as many as the top four the chance of rugby at a higher level the following season.

Here’s hoping for a successful and major injury free season, unaffected by Covid.


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