Preston Grasshoppers vs. Otley – Kick Off 2.30pm
Hoppers starting fifteen, shows just one change from the last outing two weeks ago at Brantingham Park with Alan Holmes returning to the hooking berth, Phil Mills dropping to a very strong looking bench, strengthened even more with the inclusion of Graham Holroyd.
With Otley’s Director of Rugby Tom Rock rating his backs as ‘the best in the league’, Saturday’s clash against Hoppers impressive counterparts looks set to provide an exciting match up.
The full line up is:
15. Sean Taylor, 14. Matt Gargett, 13. Karl Fitzpatrick, 12. Jack Ward, 11. Phil Baines, 10. Sean Long, 9. Nathan Fowles, 1. Andy Irving, 2. Alan Holmes, 3. Richard Morton, 4. Alex Austin, 5. Wayne Steel, 6. Kilian Wallace, 7. Matt Charters, 8. Dominic Moon.
Replacements: 16. Phil Mills, 17. Chris Gayle, 18. Conor Murphy 19. Graham Holroyd. 20. Matt Hughes.
Although Hoppers are still in with a chance of reaching the Play-Off spot in National 2 North and after three successive five point victories they will need to be aware that a recently resurgent Otley won’t be any push over this coming Saturday. Our visitors are locked in the battle to avoid relegation and with Kendal’s fate already sealed, that leaves two unenviable places still to be filled in the drop zone. Nuneaton (47) appear to be firm candidates for one spot then just seven points separate Hull Ionians (54) and Harrogate (47) with Otley (51) and Leicester Lions (50) trapped in the middle.
Hoppers will recall a close game over in Yorkshire last November with a late Matt Hughes try sealing the win. Otley were in the middle of a nine match losing sequence but have staged a recovery since the end of January giving them hope for survival. Their last away match was the long trek to Luctonians where they lost narrowly by twelve points to ten.
After relegation at the end of last season, Otley don’t seem to have settled into life in National 2 as well as many people expected. Before the drop, they had lived in the upper levels of league rugby since gaining promotion at the end of the 1990/91 season from the Courage Division 4 North when our two clubs last met at Lightfoot Green, Hoppers coming out on top that day by sixteen points to four. Hoppers and Otley next met in league action during our first season at Level 3 rugby in 1999/2000. This was to be for just one year, as Otley gained promotion once again.
There’s a definite pattern to Hoppers versus Otley league meetings, they only last for one season before each club goes its separate way. Will we break the trend this time and play each other again next season? Well it’s probably going to be after Otley’s final game at Hull Ionians before we can be sure.
The playing record between this week’s opponents goes way back to April 1929 when Otley played Hoppers whilst they were on an Easter tour. The home team ran out winners that day but suffered a comprehensive defeat the following season at Otley’s Cross Green ground against what was thought to be one of the strongest sides in Yorkshire.
There was then a considerable gap in time before the two clubs met again, but once that happened in 1961, games were played each season into the “Leagues” period.
The records show our opponents to have a slight upper hand with results over the years, Otley wining 19 to Hoppers 17 plus one drawn game and five cancellations.
Our second team have a very important game this Saturday when they make the journey to Cheshire playing Macclesfield in what may turn out to be the title winning game. Keep an ear open for regular score updates during the 1st XV’s game.
Other games being played at Lightfoot Green this Saturday include:
Hoppers 3rd’s vs. Waterloo 2nd’s
Hoppers 4th’s vs. Vale of Lune 3rd’s
Don’t forget it’s Lancashire Cup time next Wednesday,the 18th,when Hoppers have an away tie at Leigh.
Photo by kind permission of Mike Craig.