Last Trip to Claro Road for 1st XV

Date: 12 November 2014

Vice Captain Ally Murray who made an appearance off the bench in last year’s memorable match in Yorkshire.

Harrogate vs. Preston Grasshoppers– Kick Off 2.00pm

Team News

Injuries and unavailability mean coach Garth Dew is forced into three changes to his starting fifteen as well as new faces on the bench.

Tom Hurst moves up from the bench and the experienced Mark Murray makes his first start of the season for the 1st XV. Oga Mabaya starts after impressing as a replacement last week.

On the bench Harry Moulding, Tom McGuinness, Matt Gargett and Luke Procter make return appearances.

1 Oga Mabaya, 2 Phil Mills, 3 Pete Altham, 4 Reece Tomlinson, 5 Ally Murray, 6 Andy Napier, 7 Will Lees, 8 Chris Taylor, 9 Sam Kindred, 10 Lewis Allen,11 Tahir El Mahdi, 12 Jack Ward, 13 Tom Hurst, 14 Phil Baines (Captain), 15 Mark Murray.


16 Brad Tuff, 17 Tom McGuinness, 18 Luke Procter, 19 Harry Moulding, 20 Matt Gargett.


Hoppers take to the road once again next Saturday and will journey along the A59 to Harrogate’s Claro Road ground for what will be the final occasion since their first visit there almost exactly fifty years ago.

Plenty of time to reflect on their last two outings which have resulted in a couple of disappointing outcomes and some consolation can be taken from the fact that both Chester and Hull Ionians looked two very good sides and will certainly be in the mix for promotion come the end of the season.

Last Saturday’s blank space against their name on the scoreboard was the first in a League game at Lightfoot Green since before some of the current crop of players had even been born. The 14th of March 1992 was the fateful day when Lichfield who were the visitors scored the only ten points.

As mentioned at the start of this piece, this will be Hoppers final visit to Harrogate’s old ground which they have occupied since the early 1900’s before they move to new premises in January next year. A good number of the Hoppers travellers on the 1869 Club supporters coach on Saturday will have played at this famous old ground in the past and two of them featured in the game there in 1968. Both Keith Brierley and Past President Peter Ashcroft will no doubt retell stories of encounters with our Yorkshire rivals during the day. The encounter on the 20th of January 1968 threw a Hoppers XV against a team bursting with current and future County and International players, even though Geoff Young was missing due to an appointment for Wales at Twickenham.

Keith Brierley

Preston Grasshoppers at Redruth - Easter Tour 1960

Keith Brierley & Pete Ashcroft back in the day!

The saga of Harrogate’s move from Claro Road has dragged on for far too long and the news that everything will be in place by the new year at Rudding Park, a new site on the south side of the town will be welcomed by all concerned.

The opposition this Saturday will be another tough test for Hoppers as they have drawn three of their five away games so far this season and after losing their opening home game against Stourbridge in September, Harrogate have beaten all four of their opponents at Claro Road.

The Yorkshiremen are one of our more regular opponents since league fixtures began back in 1987. Out of the twenty one matches played, Harrogate have won thirteen to our five with another three being drawn including both games in the 2000/1 season. Hoppers completed the double in Harrogate’s relegation season and recorded a victory at Claro Road for the first time since the one point victory in 2007/8. In fact this was only the second league victory at this particular place in West Yorkshire out of eleven attempts.

Our hosts did the double over Hoppers last season and anyone who witnessed the “game of two halves” at Claro Road in November may never forget the scoring sequence. The first half was almost all consuming by Harrogate who went into the dressing rooms at half time holding a forty points to five lead but only a sixtieth minute try from Aaron Yorke avoided a forty all draw after Hoppers charged back in the second period with five converted tries of their own.

With fixtures going back to the 1954/55 season the full record reads, Hoppers nine wins against Harrogate’s twenty four with five ending all square and seven being cancelled for various reasons from a sequence which started back on the 23rd of October 1954 at Claro Road.

Pictures from PGRFC archive and Mike Craig.

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