Preston Grasshoppers vs. Sheffield Tigers– Kick Off 2.30pm
Michael Lough has selected a strong line up to face the Tigers for his last pick of the season and will be hoping his squad can pick up all five points on offer.
1 Danny Madden, 2 Phil Mills, 3 Pete Altham, 4 Andy Irving, 5 Ally Murray (Capt.), 6 Chris Taylor, 7 Will Lees, 8 Sam Wallbank, 9 Sam Whyte, 10 Lewis Allen, 11 Anthony Elliott, 12 Phil Baines, 13 Lloyd Davies, 14 Conor Trueman, 15 Sean Taylor.
16 Tom McGuinness, 17 Brad Tuff, 18 Luke Proctor, 19 Sam Kindred, 20 Olly Yates.
So as we arrive at the final game of the 2013/14 season with the traditional reverse of the opening day fixture, Sheffield Tigers who will be playing their last game in National 2 North for one season at least are our visitors.
What a way to round off the season it would be if both sides could reproduce the spectacle witnessed at Lightfoot Green in front of around eight hundred spectators on Good Friday, when the home side defeated a very strong National 1 Fylde side by the odd try in thirteen to receive the Brendan Hanavan Trophy in the inaugural staging of the match.
The victory meant Hoppers hang on to the ‘Bragging Rights’ with two consecutive victories over their nearest rivals after suffering eight consecutive defeats and their first back to back victories since 2006.
With The Tigers already relegated they have only their pride to play for but Hoppers will be striving for all five points in an effort to reach a respectable mid table position for the completed season.
If a victory was achieved, Hoppers could overtake Caldy who host Sedgley Park and where Hoppers should have come away with a victory just a few weeks ago and Leicester Lions who visit Dudley Kingswinford where it would be very charitable if extremely unlikely they were to gift the home side their first victory of the season.
As this is the final league game of the season a look at how our league might look at the start of next season is appropriate.
Who will be Champions of National 2 North is still the big question with just the final round of fixtures to go. As things stand Macclesfield hold a four point advantage over both their rivals but have to visit one of them in the shape of Darlington Mowden Park on Saturday who require a win and to keep their visitors from gaining one for a top two finish. A win (or draw) for Macclesfield is essential for without it they could slip to third spot if as is expected Stourbridge collect all five points at Harrogate. Still plenty to be sorted there but my bet is for a DMP four point win and with Macclesfield failing to pick up a losing bonus point, Stourbridge to win in Yorkshire so it’s the Midlanders to take the crown with Mowden Park going into the play-off against Amptill or Canterbury in a home fixture and Macclesfield missing out by losing one more game than the club from Darlington.
Things at the bottom of the table have been decided for a couple of weeks with this weekend’s visitors plus Dudley Kingswinford and Bromsgrove all set for Level Five rugby next season in North 1 and Midlands 1. Replacing them will be Huddersfield who have bounced straight back after last season’s relegation giving our visitors something to take heart from, plus Broadstreet who finished Champions of Midlands 1 this season. Broadstreet are no strangers to Hoppers and will be hoping to stay at Level 4 for more than the two separate seasons they have achieved in the past. Hoppers will head for the impressive Ivor Preece Field in Coventry next season with a clear objective as they have yet to gain a victory at that particular venue.
Playing off against each other for a place in our league next season could see another quick returnee in the shape of Stockport who were relegated with Huddersfield and host their Midlands runners up counterparts Sutton Coldfield for a promotion place.
With two of last season’s three promoted sides from our level to National 1 set to drop straight back down again, and the other, Henley looking likely to join them, we will be visiting Brantingham Park to play Hull Ionians once again next term. As Ionians are the only one Northern club likely to be relegated and if the winner of our play-off is from the Northern section, the level transfer system will come into play and the possibility of a long trek to Amptill & District RFC in Bedfordshire might be on the cards. All these theories will go out of the window if Loughborough Students or Tynedale don’t survive the last round of matches. Henley visit Tyndedale and the Students host Blaydon.
Back to this weekends game and the Tigers who prior to this season have had two successful years at Level 4 proudly taking over the mantle of ‘Senior Club’ in the area from local rivals Sheffield in recent years so will be keen to hang onto it and we hope to be playing them again in National 2 before too long.
There’s just one other league fixture remaining for Hoppers senior sides this season when the Fourths travel to Cheshire to play Sale FC Thirds this Saturday after reaching the Brooke Edgley Specialist Technical Services BEST Bowl Final, comfortably defeating Anselmians Seconds last Saturday. They will now face Warrington Thirds in the Final at either Burnage or here at Lightfoot Green.
Junior Lancashire Cup Finals
Sunday sees three Hoppers Junior sides competing in ‘Blacksticks Blue’ Lancashire Junior Challenge Cup Finals at Fylde’s Woodlands Memorial Ground and would appreciate as much support as possible. The U16 & 14’s sides both face Fylde in an effort to retain the Champions title achieved last year, whilst our U15’s play current holders Manchester.
The Under 14’s kick off at 12.15 with the Under 15’s at 1.30 and finally our Under Sixteen’s face their Fylde counterparts at 2.45.
Photographs courtesy of Mike Craig