LANCASHIRE CUP – SEMI FINAL
Preston Grasshoppers vs. Liverpool St Helens, Wednesday 2nd May, KO 7.30pm
Much as expected, Dave Baldwin has chosen a mixture of First and Second team players for this Lancashire Cup Semi Final. The winners will play Sedgley Park at Fylde’s Woodlands ground next Monday afternoon. Sedgley won in dramatic fashion in their Semi-Final, recovering from a thirty-one points to fourteen deficit to snatch victory thirty-three to thirty one!
Hoppers have the edge against Sedgley Park in this competition, losing just twice in five outings. Bank Holiday Monday’s affair will no doubt be taken more seriously than earlier encounters though, with Hoppers looking to win another trophy to go alongside the Second Team’s recent acquisition
Hoppers will line up:
15. Matt Gargett, 14. Matt Hughes, 13. Karl Fitzpatrick, 12. Russ Flynn, 11. Anthony Elliott, 10. Lewis Allen, 9. Josh Purnell, 1. Chris Gayle, 2. Chris Lowden, 3. Glynn Hoosen -Owen, 4. Ally Murray, 5. Wayne Steel, 6. Killian Wallace, 7. Sam Gale, 8. Conor Murphy.
Replacements: 16. Alan Holmes, 17. Andy Irving, 18. Jack Banks, 19. Dan Fletcher, 20. Sean Long, 21. Tom Grimes, 22. Sean Taylor
With this season’s John Burgess Lancashire Cup Competition being crammed into the final stages of the league season, a similar situation to Rossendale opting out of a Cup Final appearance against Fylde last season has happened again. Hoppers were due to play at Leigh a few Wednesday’s back and Broughton Park visit Sedgley Park, but both Broughton Park and Leigh dropped out with various excuses.
Trying to organise such a long-standing event, even though it has been streamlined over recent seasons, is an unenviable task for the Lancashire Cup organising committee. Preston Grasshoppers have always supported the Cup Competition, and it is hoped Lancashire will be able to eventually find a formula that everyone can buy into.
So this coming Wednesday will see the return of Liverpool St Helens to Lightfoot Green for what is hoped to be an entertaining game of Cup Rugby. The last visit LSH made to Preston was on the opening day of the 2004/5 season in our promotion from North 1, on the day Hoppers running out thirty three points to nil winners. One of the final games that season was at Moss Lane when Hoppers were again victorious this time by forty-six points to fourteen. Coincidentally, this game doubled up as a Lancashire Cup tie, Hoppers eventually losing in the final to West Park St Helens.
As Hoppers celebrated promotion at the end of that season, unfortunately the Moss Lane club suffered relegation and a continuation of their slide down the leagues from a once lofty height. The club eventually sank to North 2 West, and after yo-yoing around the North West leagues now find themselves favourites for the play-off position of North 1 West on the 28th of April away in the North East to Percy Park. If promoted they’ll return once again to Level 5 and National 3 North. Let’s hope they are successful and both clubs will soon be playing league rugby together once again at level four……or higher!
The St Helens based club are an amalgamation of Liverpool and St Helens an event which happened back in 1986 when Liverpool sold their St Michael’s ground in Aigburth and ‘moved in’ with St Helens at Moss Lane in Windle.
Hoppers have had fixtures with both, Liverpool (from 1874), St Helens (from 1927) and LSH from their inaugural season, so it’s fair to say there’s plenty of history between us.
As far as the Lancashire Cup’s concerned, Hoppers first ever final was against Liverpool at Waterloo’s Blundellsands Ground back in 1984 and with Liverpool playing at the top of the rugby echelon in those days it wasn’t surprising they ran out winners twenty points to three. It wasn’t all bad news that day however as Hoppers Colts, playing as a pre-curser to the main final won the Lancashire Colts Cup for the first time, ironically their opponents where the St Helens club!
Hoppers team that day (according to the programme) was:
15. Eric Dean, 14. Joe Hindle, 13. Barry Aspinall, 12. Brian Hudson, 11. Alan Sayle, 10. Keith Aichison, 9. Dave Percy, 1. Stan Sherlock, 2. Mike Billington, 3. Brent Horton (Capt.), 4. Alan Wyllie, 5. Wade Dooley, 6. Micky Parker, 7. Neil Leeming, 8. Roy Dransfield,
The Liverpool team included familiar names such as Slemen, Heslop, Simms, Askew, Buckton and one Brian Wellens. While Hoppers Colts that day had Steve Kerry and Phil Crayston in their ranks with the familiar name of C. O’Toole playing for St Helens. He was soon to make the move to Liverpool when he was named on the bench against Hoppers in the last ever game at St Michaels just two years later. Hoppers had lost another Lancashire Cup Final, this time a replayed affair against Vale of Lune at Fylde just a few days prior to this game and had salt rubbed into their wounds by Mike Slemen playing his last ever senior game and celebrating in style running riot by scoring numerous tries in a forty eight points to nil thrashing, an event witnessed by both myself and John Hetherington as I recall.
There have been just four Lancashire Cup ties between Hoppers and LSH since 1986, Hoppers winning the last one mentioned above and our visitors the remaining three. The first one of those was the only one at Lightfoot Green, so Hoppers will be keen to get a first home victory under their belts and even things up just a little, thus setting up a place in the Final at Fylde’s Woodlands Memorial Ground against either the home club (who put out a strong looking team to beat Vale of Lune in the last round) or Sedgley Park. The game is to be played on Bank Holiday Monday, the 7th of May.
Entry to the game is free on Wednesday 2nd May with a pre match meal of Hotpot followed by cheese and biscuits to be served at 6.30pm available . The cost of this £7.50 and needs to be booked by Tuesday morning before the game. To book please contact the office on 01772 863546 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.