Hoppers start at Wharfedale

Date: 29 August 2016

Wharfedale vs. Preston Grasshoppers – Kick Off 3.00pm

Preston Grasshoppers get the new season underway this coming Saturday with a trip “Ovr’t Th’ill” followed by their ever faithful band of supporters on the 1869 Club coach, to last season’s National 1 side Wharfedale.

After serving twenty consecutive terms in National 1 the home club finally succumbed to their one and only relegation at the end of last season and will be playing host to a Hoppers 1st XV for the first time in a competitive match since our meetings at that level during the visitors three year stint playing rugby at Level 3. The last of these games ended in a heavy defeat for Hoppers at Freshfields on the 19th of January 2002.

Both clubs have both lost and gained influential playing members since the end of last season which is the norm for the close season. Ready for 2016/17, Hoppers have attracted a number of players and returnees who will slot straight into their First Team squad which is a good sign for the coming season.

Preston Grasshoppers and Wharfedale competed in the customary warm up games prior to this weeks opening league fixture with the visitors travelling south to engage themselves in game at Hartpury College’s impressive sports university set up against one of this season’s favourites for promotion from National 1 before travelling to Huddersfield the following week to play the North 1 side. Added to this was a training session with local National 1 club Fylde at Lightfoot Green during last week on the soon to be uplifted Number 1 pitch.

Wharfedale’s pre-season consisted of a game up at Blaydon and a home fixture against Hull Ionians, both of who are National 1 sides.

Whilst not to much should be written into the results of what are usually simply ‘try out sessions’ between sets of remaining and new players, both Hoppers and Wharfedale lost and won one game each. Our hosts beat Blaydon with their ‘returning old boy’ ex. Hopper, Scott Jordan running in three tries before losing the game at Freshfields against Hull Ionians the following week. Preston Grasshoppers were unsurprisingly defeated in Gloucestershire before comprehensively beating last season’s relegated Yorkshire side Huddersfield.

Hoppers and Wharfedale have met in League action on just eight occasions in the past with the Yorkshire side leading the way with five wins against Hoppers three. Before the two clubs met each other in League action, there were four Club Games, the first of these taking place at Lightfoot Green back on the 1st of April 1991 when our opponents went under the name of Upper Wharfedale in the fixture book and whilst Hoppers were competing in National 3 North, our opponents league fixtures took place two levels below in North 2. A sign of things to come from the Yorkshire club came with the visitors achieving a narrow victory on the day by ten points to four. In the return fixture the following season in Yorkshire, Hoppers recorded their one and only victory at that venue by eighteen points to twelve.

The last meeting between the two sides was a pre-season practice game over in The Dales prior to the 2009/10 season in which the home side came out winners by thirty eight points to twenty one. This aside, there have been twelve matches played between the two clubs at 1st XV level with Wharfedale leading the way by eight wins to Hoppers four.

As mentioned earlier in this piece, The 1869 Club are running a coach for supporters, departing Hoppers Clubhouse at 10.45 and taking lunch at a suitable hostelry en-route. As usual anyone is welcome on the trip with the coach fare just £15, £5 for juniors. The return journey to Preston will commence an hour after the final whistle with expected arrival home around 7pm.

Photograph courtesy of Mike Craig – One of Hoppers returnees, Sam Russell on the charge during his previous stay with the club

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