Preston Grasshoppers vs. Stourbridge – Kick Off 2.30pm, Saturday 8th December
The starting fifteen for Saturday’s game against Stourbridge is the same one which lined up at Otley. Richard Morton and Wayne Steel make a return to the squad taking places on the bench whilst Brad Tuff looks to make his first appearance of the season for the 1st XV
1. Andy Irving, 2. Phil Mills, 3. Dan Madden, 4. Gareth Gore, 5. Ali Murray, 6. Conor Murphy,7. Will Keenan,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. Richard Morton, 17. Wayne Steel, 18. Brad Tuff, 19. Eddie Webster, 20. Josh Purnell.
Stourbridge have announced their team as:
1. Tom Brown, 2. Stewart Pearl, 3. Mark George, 4. Ben Hughes, 5. Robbie Hurrell,6. Nigel Mukarati 7. James Rodley,8. Drew Harper, 9. Pete White. 10. Sionne Tuipoluto, 11. Jamie Hearn, 12. Ben Barkley, 13. Will Hurrell, 14. Nathan Bressington, Captain. 15. Sam Baker.
Replacements: 16. Will Harris, 17. Stefan Cooksammy, 18. Jordan Page, 19. Nick Adams, 20. Ed Garbett.
After an enforced weekend’s rest due to an early winter break in the fixtures, Hoppers first opponents of December will be table-topping Stourbridge who travel to Lightfoot Green at the half way stage of the season with a 100% record in that they have not only won all thirteen games so far, but have scored at least four tries in each thus gaining the maximum amount of bonus points. Add to that the fact that their previous opponents have managed just one bonus point between them and you have a picture that paints a formidable task ahead of Hoppers.
After seven straight wins Hoppers form has dipped somewhat in recent weeks with a win, draw and defeat coming in the last three games but the prospect of a very much in form Stourbridge as next opponents should make for an early Christmas treat as Hoppers always appear to play their best rugby against better opposition.
The statistics also point to a cracker of a game as the league’s two top points and try scoring teams go head to head, add to that the two top try-scorers face each other in the shape of Drew Harper and Sean Taylor. With Sean also having scored the most points in the league to date it looks like being a real winter warmer!
Meetings between the two clubs go back to the 24th of November 1973 in our very first term here 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 narrow victory for Preston Grasshoppers came with a sigh of relief since they’d not won in eight games. Skipper Bob Thompson thought the win could turn the season round and conceding just three points was welcome relief after shipping two hundred and seventy seven since just the beginning of October. Current Hoppers Secretary Graham Cox together with the then Vice Captain Keith Brierley plus Stan Threlfall featured for the home side. Thompson’s hopes of a change in fortune were short lived however, Hoppers continued to have the points piled on against them while losing the next five games. In fact only four more victories were achieved that season out of the remaining twenty four games played.
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 stayed partners at this level until Hoppers promotion in 1999, 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 last season’s relegation the Midlands outfit had maintained Level 3 status.
The all time playing record between next week’s opponents sits in favour of Hoppers by eleven to ten with the league record showing Hoppers to have the upper hand with nine victories and Stourbridge eight. This 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 home club’s best effort.
Travelling back in time to that first meeting over the Christmas period of 1986 and a look at the team Hoppers put out that day shows Steve Kerry as an ever present in the centre with Keith Aitchison and Dave Percy forming a half back partnership whilst the pack included the not inconsiderable presence of Messrs Proctor, Hornby, Wyllie, Parker and Leeming. The match was notable for the fact that it was Alan Sayle’s last game in a Hoppers shirt before he emigrated to Australia. The 1st XV record of this fine club member after almost nine seasons service read: 269 appearances which included eighty six tries plus a number of kicked points giving him a total of three hundred and seventy nine points.
Before all that there are a number of games being played at Lightfoot Green this coming weekend, the 1st of December including the Second XV’s cup tie against Chester who will no doubt be all out for revenge after a late penalty try sealed their fate in Fulwood last Saturday. The Third XV also have a home tie, versus Oldham Seconds in the Trophy and our Fourths entertain Lymm Thirds in the Bowl.
The following Saturday the following games are being played at Lightfoot Green when league action returns after the ‘Cup Weekend’. The 2nd XV will be looking to clinch top spot in the Bateman Premier League playing bottom side Altrincham Kersal before the league splits for the second stage of the season. The Fifth’s entertain Aspull’s 1st XV and our illustrious Sixth’s will be hoping to cling onto second spot with a victory over Thornton Cleveleys 2’s
Sunday the 9th sees Hoppers Women’s side play Crosby St Mary’s at Lightfoot Green, when hopefully the ladies will be swapping their golfing outfits for rugby gear, while the Junior Colts entertain Waterloo.
Preview with Gareth Dyer
The club still has a limited number of pre-match lunches available.
For just £16 you can join us in the Wade Dooley suite and take in the welcoming, friendly and informal atmosphere of our club. You can treat yourself, friends, family or clients to make up a table of eight or ten with an outstanding value for money day. Your day with us will include
• A three course meal with festive trimmings
• Tickets and Match Day programme
• Waitress service
• Free car parking
• Bar account available on request
To book please contact the office before Wednesday on 01772 863546
Adverse Weather Arrangements
Should the game fall foul of the freezing weather that is forecast then the following arrangements are in place.
Lunch would still be served to those who have booked with the Sale Sharks vs Toulon game being televised at 3.40pm in the clubhouse.