Hoppers travel to Hinckley

Date: 01 February 2017

Preston Grasshoppers will be travelling southward down the M6 this coming Saturday positively boosted by their comprehensive (and long awaited) victory over Yorkshire rivals Otley last Saturday.

It has to be mentioned that whatever Head Coach Garth Dew said to his charges during last week’s training sessions must have made a big impact as it certainly hit home. The fruits of Garth, his fellow coaches plus the squad’s efforts were there for all to see.

Injuries and a suspension induced the need for change and the transformation from a ragged finish to the previous week’s spectacle was much in evidence.

Hoppers victory last Saturday moved them a little closer to safety but with still a lot of work to do if they are to avoid the dreaded drop.

There’s been a similar change in our opponents fortunes since their visit to Lightfoot Green back in mid October, and whether this is due to the Hinckley squad quickly adapting to the new league they found themselves in this season or the influx of loan players from senior clubs in their area, only they will know.

Whatever the reason, since conceding fifty points at Lightfoot Green earlier in the season they went on to win their next six games. In so doing this laid the platform for their current position. They’ve played thirteen games since then and in winning eight of them have moved themselves into a comfortable mid table position, well away from the battle against relegation which is happening below them.

Last week’s victories for three of those in the bottom five at kick off time, together with defeats for Otley and Luctonians has sucked the latter two into the dogfight with seventeen points separating bottom side Sheffield Tigers from Otley who are six places above them. Hoppers win reduced the gap between themselves and Scunthorpe who currently lie in the safe position of fourth from bottom, to nine points with the Leicester Lions home game in hand. Out of this bottom group, Hoppers still have to play Luctonians, Harrogate and Wharfedale at Lightfoot Green and The Tigers at Dore More.

There will be a reprieve come the end of the season for one of the fourteenth placed clubs in ours and the corresponding Southern section of National 2 which has come about because of London Welsh’s demise from the Championship. The ruling is that whichever team has the best record of the two, will survive National 2 for another season. The current holders of fourteenth position are Wharfedale on thirty two points and Barnstaple on thirty one.

Hinckley made a welcome return to Level 4 rugby after securing promotion to National 2 North at the end of last season with a Play-Off victory over Cheshire side Wirral who aptly reside in that particular part of Merseyside. Our visitors led Midlands 1 for the major part of the season only losing that position after the final league fixture at Scunthorpe who took the spoils together with the title on the day.

Hinckley last graced this level of the rugby pyramid during 1999 and whilst Hoppers gained promotion at the end of that season our visitors fell back into the Midlands Leagues where they resided until last season’s success.

The Midlands Club played Level 4 rugby in what was then named National 3 North for just two seasons and added to their two previous defeats at Lightfoot Green earlier this season. Hoppers also won on both visits to the Leicester Road ground but will no doubt face their sternest test yet against a Hinckley side if they are to keep that winning sequence intact.

Preston Grasshoppers first appearance at Hinckley’s Leicester Road ground was on the 10th of January 1998 where they extended a winning sequence to five games in a seven point victory. The visitor’s scorers on the day were Iain Bruce, Neil Ashton, Rob Smith and Josh Williams with Rob Smith’s conversion attempts successful on just one occasion.

Words by Mike Forshaw, photo by Mike Craig.

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