Leicester Lions Preview

Date: 15 April 2013

Preston Grasshoppers vs. Leicester Lions – Kick Off 2.30pm

Phil Baines

Phil Baines splashes through the early season wet surface at Lightfoot Green – picture by Mike Craig.

Team News

With  a number of Hoppers youngsters involved with Lancashire U20’s on Sunday in the semi-final of the National Under 20 Competition versus Berkshire at Maidenhead RFC, Head Coach Michael Lough has given Brad Tuff a start at hooker and rested others.

Alex Austin and Ali Murray swap places between the starting line up and bench this week and the team sees a few other changes from the Stourbridge outing. In the backs Sam Kindred makes a return at the expense of Craig Aikman who drops to the bench and the return of Karl Fitzpatrick in the number ten shirt is something to wet the appetite of Hoppers supporters!

Adam Birchall returns to his familiar position on the wing, moving Phil Baines into the centres once again. Chris Gale fills the vacant spot on the bench.

Prop Andy Irving reaches a personal milestone this week when he will play his fiftieth game for Preston Grasshoppers. Well done Andy!

1. Richard Morton, 2. Brad Tuff, 3. Andy Irving, 4. Alex Austin, 5. Gareth Gore, 6. Will Keenan, 7. Killian Wallace, 8. Dominic Moon. Captain, 9. Sam Kindred, 10. Karl Fitzpatrick, 11. Adam Birchall, 12. Jack Ward, 13. Phil Baines, 14. Matt Hughes, 15. Sean Taylor.

Replacements: 16. Chris Gale, 17. Danny Madden, 18. Ali Murray, 19. Craig Aikman, 20. Josh Purnell.


Hoppers entertain Leicester Lions this coming Saturday hoping to get back to winning ways after last week’s defeat at the hands of league leaders Stourbridge.

The Midlands outfit performed something of an escape act at the end of last season, hovering just above the relegation fight for much of the time before stringing a few good results together near the end and finishing just one point away from relegation after suffering defeat at Harrogate on the final day of the season. In the game at Claro Road the home team’s victory led the Yorkshire players and supporters to believe they were safe, only for a late change of fortune for Otley at Hull Ionians to condemn them to North 1.

This season has seen our forthcoming opponents having something of an inconsistent run of results, although beginning with the narrowest of victories over Hoppers back in December last year starting an unbeaten six match run before their form slipped once again recording just one victory from seven outings since the beginning of February.

Fixtures against this week’s opponents began relatively recently when the Lions gained promotion into the National Leagues as Champions of Midlands 1 at the end of the 2004/5 season. Since then the share of victories is slightly in favour of our visitors, winning eight to Hoppers seven games. Last seasons double over the Lions was a first for Hoppers balancing out the previous season events when Leicester won both encounters in a season when promotion for them looked on for most of the term.

With the 2012/13 season coming to its conclusion, now is a good time to consider which teams we’ll be losing in May and newcomers for next year.

At the bottom of our league, Huddersfield are already doomed with Stockport needing a miracle to survive and Westoe with only a slim chance of survival. The top spot could go either way between Hull Ionians and Stourbridge with the runners up facing a play off tie against Henley Hawks. Darlington Mowden Park appear to have lost whatever slim chance they had of promotion with their surprising home defeat at the hands of Sheffield Tigers last Saturday. If Ionians finish second it looks likely they’ll have a home tie but if it’s Stourbridge, they could very well have to travel with both teams having lost four games each as things stand.

The bottom of National 1 sees Cambridge already relegated and Sedgley Park virtually certain of the drop with Macclesfield and Wharfedale battling out the third relegation place.

With just one round of fixtures remaining in the Midlands and North sections of Level 5, neither leagues have a clear winner at this late stage. The Midlands section sees Amptill sitting in top spot with Sutton Coldfield five points behind needing the leaders to lose their last game and an enormous win for themselves to turn things round. The Northern section has Chester sitting at the top just one point ahead of Harrogate after the Yorkshire sides defeat at the hands of Sandal last Saturday who in turn sit waiting for either of the top two to slip up on the final weekend. Chester host Rossendale this week while Harrogate have a tricky trip to Billingham to deal with. Sandal, four points behind top spot, host Bradford and Bingley for their last game. The winners of both these leagues will become our opponents next season with the second placed clubs fighting for the same prize in a play off.

The likely outcome is that we will lose Huddersfield, Stockport and Westoe from the bottom of our league and Stourbridge and Hull Ionians from the top. This will leave five vacant places which Sedgley Park and either Wharfedale or Macclesfield will fill from above and Chester, Amptill plus the winner of a possible Harrogate against Sutton Coldfield play off. The level transfer system may well come into the equation as well with so many Midlands clubs sitting on the border line.

Our high flying Second XV will have to wait until a week on Saturday before their next game but might not have to wait until then to see if they can hang onto their Champions title. Closest challengers Macclesfield have two important games against Fylde this week which could decide things before we also play our closest rivals in a Friday night fixture at Lightfoot Green on the 26th of April.

Other games at Lightfoot Green on Saturday

The 6th XV welcome Blackpool 1 on Saturday in what will be Keith ‘Dad’ Brierley’s last game before he retires after 52 seasons aged 71. You can read more about Keith’s retirement here.

The Under 14’s will play against Wharfedale in a curtain raiser on pitch 1 at 1.15pm before the 1st XV game.

Cheltenham Saracens will be playing a Hoppers XV as part of their tour and we also welcome Amatori Rugby Formia from Italy who are on tour as well.

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