Hull Ionians vs. Preston Grasshoppers – Kick Off 3pm
Hoppers side sees three changes to the team that gained a bonus point win over Stockport last week. In the front row Andrew Irving replaces Chris Gale who drops to the bench. At hooker Alan Holmes makes way for Phil Mills. The only other change comes in the back row where Kilian Wallace comes in for the injured Will Keenan. Last weeks back line remains unchanged so Sean Long continues at fly half.
The bench sees 17 year old fly half Lewis Allen called up after some impressive displays for the 2nds and the return of top try scorer Matt Hughes.
1. Andy Irving, 2. Phil Mills, 3. Rich Morton, 4. Alex Austin, 5. Wayne Steel, 6. Kilian Wallace, 7. Matt Charters, 8. Dominic Moon, 9. Nathan Fowles, 10. Sean Long, 11. Phil Baines, 12. Jack Ward, 13. Karl Fitzpatrick, 14. Matt Gargett, 15. Sean Taylor
Replacements: 16. Alan Holmes, 17. Chris Gale, 18. Conor Murphy, 19. Lewis Allen, 20. Matt Hughes
Hoppers head for Yorkshire once again this coming Saturday and will be keen to avenge what was a surprising defeat at the hands of the East Ridings outfit back in November. The home side on that day had just recorded an impressive victory away at Stockport and Ionians were rooted to the bottom of the table with just a couple of wins from fifteen starts to their credit. However, during the week leading up to their trip to Lancashire, thanks to a sudden cash injection, they had recruited players from the likes of Rotherham and Doncaster and the new arrivals appeared to inspire the remainder of the team who ran out comfortable winners on the day. All of which put a dampener on the mood of Hoppers then best crowd of the season, who were anticipating Sean Long on his home debut helping Hoppers to an easy win against a struggling Hull Ionians side.
As has been well documented, Ionians benefactor has since pulled out of what was seen as a financial lifeline to the club and their results since visiting Lightfoot Green have been inconsistent. They currently sit just above the dreaded bottom three, but with two of the three places (Kendal appear all but doomed) still being contested by five clubs, we can be sure they will be looking to make our visit to Brantingham Park a torrid affair while Hoppers will be hoping to build on what was arguably their best two performances of the season, on the road a couple of weeks ago at Harrogate and last weeks victory over Stockport.
Rugby matches between Hoppers and various clubs in Hull have been taking place for fifty years, going back to when Hull & East Riding visited our old ground at Lea on the 22nd of April 1961 where the home team ran out winners by fourteen points to three. A match programme from that inaugural fixture survives amongst our archive collection, plus one from the return match the following year played at ‘Ridings Goddard Avenue ground. Interestingly, the programme notes that day record the home sides last game, which was against Ionians at Elloughton which is were Hull Ionians were born in 1989 when Hull & East Riding and Ionians amalgamated.
Fixtures against Hull Ionians started in their inaugural season on the 7th of October 1989 here at Lightfoot Green, when this time the visiting team were victorious by thirteen points to nine.
The record so far between today’s rivals stands marginally in Hoppers favour by thirteen victories to eleven and who will not only be seeking to avenge the home defeat in November but their heaviest defeat against the Ionians in last season’s game at Brantingham Park when the home team served out a thrashing by sixty points to twenty one.
Dominic Moon’s second try at Harrogate in our last away game was his twentieth for the club in this just his third season with Hoppers, and all being well he’ll play his fiftieth game at Hull Ionians this coming Saturday. Ever-present this season, Phil Baines’ two tries in the same game took him to fifty points for the season. Sean Taylor who also joined in the ‘try fest’ is the only other player to appear in all games this season. Still on the subject of tries, Jack Ward’s effort last week against Stockport was his first for Hoppers. Nathan Fowles’ faultless kicking at Claro Road took him past fifty points for the season as well.
A look at the league table this week shows Hoppers moved up another place to sixth position, somewhat higher than at this stage in recent seasons. The seventy seven points accumulated so far this term are more than any of the end of season totals since the thirty game seasons commenced. Our third place finish back in 2007 is very probably the last time we sat so high in National 2 North, although our pre-Christmas form in recent seasons has seen us sit in the top half just prior to the Christmas break. The target has to be beating the eighty five points and seventeen wins (albeit from just 26 games) from 2006/7 when we finished in third place behind the North Eastern duo, Tynedale and Blaydon and how about surpassing the seven hundred and sixty three points total of the previous season. Another nine and ninety seven points respectively from the remaining four fixtures, how about setting that as a target boys!?
Games being played at Lightfoot Green this weekend include:
Hoppers 2nds vs. Stockport 2nds
Hoppers 5ths vs. Blackpool
Hoppers 6ths vs. Thornton Cleveleys 2nds