Hoppers team for Saturday’s trip to the Midlands sees several changes from last weeks victorious squad against the Lions most of which are rotational between last weeks starting line-up and bench plus the Senior Squad members.
1 Chris Gayle, 2 Phil Mills, 3 Mo Mustafa, 4 Joab Murphy, 5 Sam Wallbank, 6 Andy Napier, 7 Will Lees, 8 Dominic Moon (Captain), 9 Sam Kindred,10 Lewis Allen, 11 Matt Hughes, 12 Oli Farley, 13 Phil Baines, 14 Adam Birchall, 15 Mark Murray.
16 Dan Madden, 17 Alan Holmes, 18 Alex Austin, 19 Killian Wallace, 20 Craig Aikman.
After getting back to winning ways last Saturday against Leicester Lions, Hoppers make the trip to Stourbridge’s Stourton Park with a view to reverse one of last season’s double defeats at the hands of the Midlands outfit.
Hoppers coaching staff will be hoping the long list of injuries will be shortened in time for what will be their biggest test so far this season at Stourton Park. The injury problem has meant that only six players have started in every game at this early stage of the season and the latest débutante and replacement last Saturday Joab Murphy has the honour of becoming Hoppers three hundred and fiftieth League Player.
Although they gave last season’s runners up a few frights both home and away, Hoppers fell short of victory on both occasions. The game at Lightfoot Green was a cracking affair with a spirited second half performance by the home side giving the run away league leaders a fright and claiming the first bonus point against them, only a late fifteen man push over denying the home side a losing bonus point.
Hoppers held the lead for a long period in the return fixture before Stourbridge eventually overpowered the visitors.
Stourbridge fell just short of promotion last season, and after looking a certainty for National 1 until their defeats at the hands of Hull Ionians and Mowden Park near the end of the season, had to settle for a home play-off against National 2 South Worthing. After looking like winning the game, a late twist of fate meant Level 4 rugby was on the menu for a second season at Stourton Park.
Our hosts have started this season as last with four straight five point victories and although they’ve still to meet any of the other promotion favourites it looks as if they’ll be in contention for promotion once again come next April.
Meetings between Hoppers and Stourbridge go back to the 24th of November 1973 in our very first season at Lightfoot Green. Hoppers ran out narrow winners that day by six points to three, before the return fixture at Stourton two seasons later when the home side recorded a comfortable victory.
The next meeting was the day after the annual Fylde Boxing Day match in 1986, the season before leagues were formed and both Hoppers and Stourbridge started their respective journey into league rugby together at level 4 in what was then titled the Courage Area League (North).
The two clubs had stayed partners at this level until Hoppers promotion, a season when Stourbridge together with New Brighton and Kendal (who were promoted the following season) were Hoppers main challengers throughout with a January twenty five points to ten victory at Stourton Park probably being the deciding factor.
Stourbridge finally gained promotion to what was then National 2 two seasons later in what was to prove Hoppers final season at that level and until relegation two seasons ago, the Midlands outfit had maintained Level 3 status.
The all time playing record between next week’s opponents couldn’t be closer with the home team showing a slight advantage having won twelve matches to Hoppers eleven. The league record tells a similar story with nine victories to Hoppers and ten to Stourbridge. The overall record includes a forty four points to nineteen Powergen Cup victory to Stourbridge during the 1995/6 season at Lightfoot Green, their biggest winning margin over Hoppers whilst a thirty two points to three victory in their promotion season also in Preston was the Hoppers best effort.
Lightfoot Green this Saturday
With the 1st XV on the road there’s still plenty of action to be found at Lightfoot Green this coming Saturday. An undefeated Second fifteen take on Wilmslow whilst the Thirds entertain Warrington Seconds and the Fourth XV play Fylde fourths.
Photograph by kind permission of Mike Craig.