Lucs visit Lightfoot Green

Date: 01 March 2016

Preston Grasshoppers vs. Luctonians – Kick Off 2.30pm

Preston Grasshoppers host Luctonians this Saturday who will be making the long journey from rural Herefordshire, although not as far as they travelled last Saturday when they visited Tynedale’s temporary home at Newcastle Falcons after a late call off on the original fixture date due to the flooding. Our opponents from Herefordshire will have travelled more miles than usual once this season  is finally completed.

After suffering a second consecutive defeat last Saturday, Hoppers will want to get back on track with a home win before facing league leaders Macclesfield at Lightfoot Green in a rearranged fixture the following week in what will be their third consecutive home fixture.

Last weeks opponents from the top four of the league Leicester Lions were made to work very hard for their win against the somewhat deplete ranks of a Hoppers side which gave their all but came up just short after leading for long periods of the game.

Our visitors have turned things round since Hoppers victory at Mortimer Park back in early November. After that particular defeat, Luctonians had just one victory to their name and that against current bottom side Huddersfield. Since then they’ve played ten games winning seven of them including a narrow victory away against Tynedale last Saturday. Luctonians still haven’t managed to escape the clutches of the bottom three relegation places, but their current form points to another season in the National Leagues next term.

Luctonians haven’t had the best of times in their visits to Lightfoot Green suffering a number of heavy defeats, however that all changed a couple of seasons ago when they registered their only success on Hoppers soil with a narrow three point victory from seventeen.

Like Hoppers, our hosts survival in National 2 North at the end of last season went to the final Saturday and while Hoppers were successful away at Hull, Luctonians breathed a sigh of relief after a home win against Leicester Lions which sealed the fate of Hoppers hosts in Hull together with Birmingham Solihull.

Having moved through the Midlands Leagues, Luctonians are currently playing their sixth season at this level and with a third of the season still remaining, will be looking to climb away from the danger zone to compete at this level for a seventh time.

The full record of meetings between the two clubs reads, six victories to Preston Grasshoppers whilst our visitors have recorded four wins with one drawn fixture at Mortimer Park.

Looking ahead somewhat to next season and with the RFU Council Members having voted for the Adult Competition Review to be accepted last Friday, it looks like we will then be seeing the finale of the current league structure. The voting was very close with twenty seven voting for, twenty six against and five abstentions.

The new set up for 2017/2018 at our level will consist of three leagues of fifteen (as against sixteen at present) with one in the North together with an East Midlands/South East and West Midlands/South West. As for promotion and relegation, just the winners of the three divisions in National 2 would be promoted with no play off’s now taking place and the normal bottom three sides being relegated with the exception of the third from bottom side with the best record from the three divisions surviving.

National 1 which is the RFU’s Level 3 of rugby will suffer a similar fate, also being reduced to fifteen clubs but remaining a fully national league. Promotion and relegation from this league will remain as is, with one going up and three coming down.

National 3 (Level 5) leagues which will consists of eight as against the current four, will be reduced in club numbers and consist of just twelve from the present fourteen with the top teams in each being promoted to National 2. Introduction of a cup competition in an effort to compensate for the lack of fixtures is to be introduced for this level and below. This said, the Northern Action Group led by Fred Swarbrick and the vast majority of clubs at level five and below are strongly against this decision and may well take matters into their own hands or possibly be able to reach a local agreement with the RFU.

There will be a season of adjustment to cater for the changes and it looks as if this will be carried out as follows: at the end of next season National 1 will see one club promoted and three relegated as it currently happens. National 2 North and South will have one each automatically promoted and one from the play off, also as it currently happens but there will be no relegation from each of these leagues. The four National 3 leagues will promote the best sixteen clubs up to the three National 2 leagues and they will be duly distributed by the level transfer system.

The line of division between the North and Midlands at National 2 level would be drawn depending on the southern most northern club and Northern most Midlands one to balance the league numbers. There may be room for negotiation between clubs and the RFU in this matter as there has been in the past. this won’t concern ourselves as we are too far north of the divisional line.

To give some idea as to how the new National 2 North would look if it were to come into place next season, these are possibly the clubs that would make up the structure:

Wharfedale, Sedgley Park, Caldy, Harrogate, Otley, Preston Grasshoppers, Sandal, Chester, Tynedale, Sale, Huddersfield, Wirral, Lymm, Waterloo and Rossendale.

Clubs that sit in the border area between North and the Midlands might have an interesting time with the new structure. The level transfer system might see them playing Tynedale one season in the Northern section then Redruth the next in the Midlands/ South West or Worthing Raiders in the Midlands/South East if they reside in the east.

As for ourselves, we would certainly lose fixtures against clubs such as this weeks opponents Luctonians and other long distance venues such as Stourbridge and the Leicester sides with clubs such as Chester and some of those south of the M62 probably becoming in and out teams between the Northern and Southern structures.

The benefits would be less travelling time to away games for the players together with two less league games a season for them to play in. the down side would be the loss of revenue with just fourteen instead of fifteen home league games and the lottery of where the gap week would fall as there are now to be an uneven number of sides in the league set up. The gap weekend might give the opportunity to play one of the clubs from the other two leagues in what has now become a long lost feature of a ‘Club Game’ or ‘Friendly’.

Another feature of the more local fixtures is that it would give the 1869 Club more games to travel to and give our team bigger support at more away fixtures plus added revenue from the possibility of locally visiting supporters. A quick glance at the list above shows that all but one or two would be viable ventures for the 1869 Club.

It must be noted that at the time of writing this piece, there hasn’t been an official announcement from the RFU on the Council’s vote and until this happens nothing can be taken for granted.

Picture courtesy of Mike Craig – Pete Altham touches down for his tenth Hoppers try during last Saturday’s game against Leicester Lions before receiving some rather unnecessary rough treatment.

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