Another tough test for Hoppers lies ahead of them this Saturday when first time visitors to Lightfoot Green Billingham take the stage.
Words by Mike Forshaw, photo by Mike Craig
Hoppers 3G playing surface won’t be a novelty to the North East side as they also were one of the six inaugural clubs selected by the RFU to begin the roll out. Like ourselves they also had the disappointment of losing in the first competitive game on the new surface.
After a poor start to the season, losing three of their opening four games the ‘Green and Whites’ have turned things around and remain undefeated in seven since the end of September. Billingham have clocked up some big scores during this run with a couple of impressive results coming at Hull during mid October who they defeated by six points and on home ‘turf’ where they demolished Kirkby Lonsdale a month ago by a huge margin.
Although it was ‘Job Done’ last week at Morley coming away with another five point haul, Hoppers took time to settle but still took a healthy lead into the dressing room at half time. The last quarter saw a marked difference from recent weeks as they struggled to impose their obvious advantages on the home side, appearing to get ‘Bogged Down’ in mid-field for long periods.
‘Our Spirit is our Strength’ is the Billingham club’s motto, so Preston Grasshoppers next challenge may well be the biggest they’ve faced all season and with an equally difficult task on their hands the following week at Wirral for the last league game of the year, will need to be at their very best in order to keep their unbeaten record intact.
Billingham and Hoppers 1st XV’s have never faced each other before so both clubs will be treading new territory this season. Our visitors started to climb the leagues as Champions of Durham/Northumberland 1 at the end of the 2007/08 season when they moved into North 1 East where they topped the league in 2009/10 and 2011/12 moving to this level where they’ve played their rugby ever since.
Here’s the team:
Following on from recently clocking up a century and a half of games in a 1st XV shirt, this Saturday should see Ally Murray make his 150th League Appearance for Preston Grasshoppers. Together with congratulating Ally, praise also for Tyler Spence who scored his first try last Saturday at Morley and to Jake Squirrell who in converting Matt Lamprey’s hat-trick try clocked up fifty points for the season to date.
Matt’s hat-trick was the first for Hoppers since Adam Birchall scored four in the game against Luctonians back on the 11th of May 2013 when Hoppers rung up fifty seven points in the last game of the season in a rearranged fixture. This followed up another Birchall hat-trick from the previous week when Hoppers demolished Westoe is a similarly rearranged game. The 2012/13 season certainly ended in spectacular fashion for Preston Grasshoppers at Lightfoot Green as the above results were preceded by an eighty three points to nineteen victory over Leicester Lions when amongst a thirteen try haul Matt Hughes and Sean Taylor each scored three tries.
However, the last time a ‘Hopper’ scored three tries in an away match was Matthew Hughes at Huddersfield earlier the same season in a forty seven points to six victory.