Ilkley Preview

Date: 02 November 2017

Preston Grasshoppers make the journey over the Pennines this Saturday to play Ilkley Rugby Club for the first time in a League Fixture and over fifty years since the last  meeting between the two which was also over in Yorkshire back on the 30th of November 1963.

Words by Mike Forshaw, photo by Mike Craig

Hoppers last visit to Stacks Field resulted in a twenty one points to three victory, something the visitors will be hoping to repeat on Saturday to keep this season’s unbeaten run going.

Back in 1963 the visitors weren’t fancied to win, but aided by the home side starting without a full back and centre, they raced to an early lead thanks to the boot of “Ashcroft” who went on to add to his tally and complete a hat trick of penalty kicks. Hoppers Ashcroft wasn’t finished yet though, and it was reported that Worth scored a late try from an Ashcroft burst! With his efforts in mind, the 1869 Club’s travellers will have to watch out for the elder version ‘bursting’ to the bar on Saturday!

208 - Preston Grasshoppers 1960-61 at Lea

Peter Ashcroft, Preston Grasshoppers 1960-61

The Preston Grasshoppers side that day was to have consisted of the following players, but at least one dropped out as try scorer Worth was promoted from the ‘A’ side who were also down to play an Ilkley XV:

Shepherd, Smith K.R., Ashcroft, Hill M.T., Hill R.G., King, McKenzie (McMurray?), Forster, Barnes, Hankinson, Bray, Marsh, Smith E.R., Kapman & Jenkins.

A number of these gentlemen are sadly no longer with us, but there may well be at least one other member of this squad making the journey to Ilkley on Saturday.

Back to the present and after starting the season with four consecutive victories, Ilkley suffered their first reverse at the hands of Rossendale, and on home soil before recovering with a win at Sandal. Rather surprisingly they then lost at Pocklington a fortnight ago only for Hoppers to overwhelmed the same side a week later. Last week they suffered defeat once again, albeit narrowly at Wirral. So the visiting Preston Grasshoppers can expect a side looking to get back on track with a home win.

The eventual demolition of Pocklington came in the second period after a spirited effort which saw the Yorkshire side hammer away at a resolute home defence but without reward. The ‘nil’ scoreline for our visitors was the first shut-out Hoppers have achieved since the defeat of Dudley Kingswinford at Heathbrook on the 22nd of March 2014.

The Ilkley fixture is the first of three key games from which the results could well determine how the rest of Hoppers season evolves. Two tough away games before facing current second placed Lymm at Lightfoot Green will be their stiffest tests to date. A trip to Harrogate follows this week’s game at Ilkley where Hoppers have something to prove after last season’s disastrous second half performance which hammered another nail into the coffin which transported them into their current situation.

As mentioned previously, it’s been some time since Preston Grasshoppers and Ilkley have crossed swords. Up to and including the game in 1963, there have been nineteen matches between the two going back to the first encounter back in Preston in 1927. That game was played at Faringdon Park on the 10th of September where the home side ran out comfortable winners, twenty one points to nil.

A full record of games between the two clubs shows that Ilkley have the upper hand over there Lancashire rivals, winning ten to Hoppers eight with three games falling foul of the weather plus a three all draw.

The 1869 Club have posters on the noticeboard for both trips to Yorkshire with the usual lunch stops en-route. As usual, everyone’s welcome with the fare £15 and accompanied juniors travelling for £5 each. The coaches depart Lightfoot Green at 10:30am and 10am respectively and will leave Stacks Field and Rudding Park around an hour after the final whistle.


Following Pete Altham’s 100th appearance last Saturday and all being well, Ally Murray will make his 150th appearance for Hoppers at Ilkley since his debut back on the 1st of October during 2011 at Lightfoot Green when Westoe were the opposition. Last Saturday saw Sam Stott score his first try in a Hoppers shirt and Scott Jordan clock up 100 points for the club with his twentieth try. A half way mark was made to that tally by Matt Lamprey in the game against Pocklington when he crossed the line for the tenth time this season in just eight outings.

Here’s how the team will look:

1st XV Team Sheet

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