Leicester Lions vs. Preston Grasshoppers – 7th January 2012, Kick Off 2.00pm
15. Sean Taylor, 14. Matt Hughes, 13. Phil Baines, 12. Jack Ward, 11. Matt Gargett, 10. Graham Holroyd, 9. Nathan Fowles, 1. Chris Gayle, 2. Alan Holmes, 3. Richard Morton, 4. Ali Atkinson, 5. Wayne Steel Capt, 6. Connor Murphy, 7. Killian Wallace, 8. Dominic Moon.
Replacements: 16. Alan Martindale 17. Andy Irving, 18. Matt Charters, 19. Antony Elliott, 20. Mark Edwards
The Hoppers starting line up shows a number of changes from the last game before Christmas against Kendal. In the backs Phil Baines moves to centre with Matt Gargett taking his place on the wing and making his first start to a game since a recent move from neighbours Fylde. The tight five remains the same but in the back row, Connor Murphy moves to blind side flanker with Dominic Moon regaining his more usual number eight jersey. The most significant change to the team comes with the number nine shirt and the return of Nathan Fowles. Nathan was in scintillating form before his unfortunate injury, which kept him out of action for a number of weeks. Mark Edwards, who has surprised many with sterling performances in Nathan’s absence, drops to the bench.
The ex Rugby League pair, Sean Long and Karl Fitzpatrick aren’t available due to Salford City Reds having a fixture and Karl is with Warrington Wolves in Australia.
All in all though, a very strong looking line-up.
The game brings a major milestone for Rich Morton, as it will be his 150th appearance for Hoppers and if ‘Bunny’ is released from the bench it will be his 50th game in a Hoppers shirt.
Hoppers travel to play one of last season’s top teams Leicester Lions on the first Saturday of the New Year. The home team’s first half of the current campaign hasn’t gone the way most people would have predicted. Hoppers will be keen to take advantage of this and gain the victory that has eluded them after their first visit to Westleigh Park, a win that came by way of a Penalty Try in added time at the end of the game, something the visitors are reminded of on each and every visit!
The Lions presently sit uncomfortably close to the third relegation spot with just one point separating them and Otley who currently occupy that unenviable position. Four of their five wins together with one draw have come in home games, something Hoppers will need to take heed of. They’ve also taken the notable scalp of current league leaders Loughborough Students, but since walloping Kendal early in November, a further home win has eluded them
If the visitors are successful it will be the fourth successive win on the road something that hasn’t been repeated in the last five years, when wins at Blaydon, Darlington, Macclesfield and Cleckheaton started the 2006/7 season. The game at Blaydon was unusual in the fact that even though it was played on the 2nd of September the pitch resembled a swamp, being covered with pools of water after torrential rain all through the day. Even more unusual was that Hoppers previous away game, the last one of 2005/6 season was also away at Blaydon, and once again freak weather prevailed, with the game being played in a blizzard……..during April!
Fixtures against this week’s opponents began relatively recently when the Lions gained promotion into the National Leagues as Champions of Midlands 1 at the end of the 2004/5 season. Since then the share of victories are fairly even, Hoppers winning six times out of thirteen meetings.
Other games being played at Lightfoot Green on Saturday the 7th of January with a 2:15 kick off time are as follows:
Hoppers 2nd XV vs Fylde 2nd XV
Hoppers 5th XV vs Wigan 3rd XV
Hoppers 6th XV vs Blackburn 3rd XV
Hoppers successful 2nd XV entertain local rivals Fylde and will be boosted by the news of previously undefeated Sedgley Park’s reverse at the hands of Caldy before Christmas. Caldy had suffered defeat by Hoppers just the previous week.
The following Sunday, the 15th sees Hoppers Senior Colts entertain Liverpool St Helens whilst their Junior partners play Stockport, both with a 2pm start time.
The next home game for the 1st XV on the 14th of January sees Midland’s newcomers Bromsgrove make a first ever visit to Lightfoot Green. The Finstall Park side were promoted as Champions of Midlands 3 back in May and have made a successful start in National 2 sitting comfortably in mid table.