Trip to Sedge for 1st XV

Date: 19 April 2016

Mark Murray’s slick pass sets Hoppers Man of the Match Jacob Browne on his way down the Clubhouse Wing last Saturday at Lightfoot Green when Huddersfield were the visitors.

Sedgley Park vs. Preston Grasshoppers – Kick Off 2.30pm

Hoppers head for Park Lane this coming Saturday for an end of season clash with Sedgely Park and although there are just a couple of games left to play for Hoppers to maintain their current mid-table position, there’s more at stake for the home side.

As things stand, The Tigers require just two points from their remaining three outings to ensure a play off encounter with their Southern counterparts and whilst their ex Captain Garth Dew will no doubt want to see them succeed, a delay in celebrations until the following Saturday would suit him and everyone else at Lightfoot Green just fine!

Sedgley Park could have sealed their 14th of May date in the play off and a possible return to National 1 rugby next season last Saturday, but a depleted side ravaged by injuries and suspension came away from Paton Field pointless. Even if the home side lose all three of their remaining games this season, just a couple of bonus points would be enough to put them into the single play-off game.

Indeed Hoppers may well play a key role at both ends of the table in their last two games of the 2015/16 season for whilst Sedgley battle things out near the top of the table, next weeks visitors Chester could very well need points from Lightfoot Green the following Saturday to avoid the dreaded drop into North 1 together with already condemned Huddersfield, plus Broadstreet who also look doomed. This Saturday, Chester host a Caldy side fresh from defeating Sedgley Park last weekend, in a clash we can compare with ourselves playing Fylde under similar circumstances.

Hoppers will have to be wary of a backlash from Sedgley Park’s defeat both at Caldy and Lightfoot Green in the reverse fixture, but will travel the short distance full of confidence after putting already relegated Huddersfield to the sword last Saturday inflicting the visitors heaviest defeat of the season by some margin. In the process they reached the fifty point mark for the first time since crossing the land mark on five occasions during the 2012-2013 season. Huddersfield (54) once again were the victims along with Westoe (67), Luctonians (57), Leicester Lions (83) and Hull (55).

The eight tries scored last week included a debut score for Jacob Browne who received the Grasshoppers Man of the Match award, plus Garth Dew and Harry Reddick crossing the line for the first time in a Preston Grasshoppers 1st XV shirt.

Even taking into consideration the visitors current situation, the game was a fine spectacle of open rugby which royally entertained Lightfoot Green’s biggest league attendance of the season by some margin, a performance Hoppers have promised but rarely achieved all season and so different to the previous week at Leicester Lions.

Promotion issues below us became a little clearer after last Saturdays game was completed in Midlands 1. A home victory by Scunthorpe over long time top of the table Hinckley ‘stole’ the automatic promotion spot alongside Sheffield Tigers from North 1. Hinckley have now had to settle for a home venue play off clash with Cheshire side Wirral on the 30th of April.

Games between Hoppers and Park last season would both have been won by Preston Grasshoppers had it not been for a last ditch converted try at Park Lane by the home side thus giving them a two point victory in sixty three. With Hoppers gaining a convincing victory in very wet conditions at Lightfoot Green in the pre Christmas fixture they’ll be intent on completing the double at Park Lane and putting the home sides celebrations on hold for at least one more week unless news arrive that Leicester Lions (at home to local side South Leicester) or Stourbridge (away at Luctonians) have failed to win with a bonus point in their respective games.

Encounters with our hosts from Greater Manchester commenced just about ten years after our move from Lea to Fulwood with an away game and victory by twelve points to six. Sedgley had stepped into a vacant Easter Saturday fixture date on the 2nd of April 1983 after Blackburn had pulled out and the event started a short run of fixtures for just three years all of which were won by Hoppers.

The next time the two clubs met was in the first ever League fixture which was played at Park Lane back in 1997 when Hoppers continued their winning ways with a narrow twenty points to sixteen victory. Hoppers went on to complete the double that season and it wasn’t until we played a Lancashire Cup tie at Lightfoot Green during the 2000/2001 season that ‘Park achieved a victory over Preston Grasshoppers something that was repeated in league form at the double during the following season when Hoppers were relegated from National 1. Sedgley Park however remained at Level 3 and apart from a number of Lancashire Cup ties and a pre-season fixture during 2011, the two teams hadn’t met in league action until the 2013/14 season. The playing record between Hoppers and Sedgley Park shows the current standing to be in Preston Grasshoppers favour.

The three Club games back in the 1980’s were all won by Hoppers and League wins stand in favour of Preston by seven to three whilst Lancashire Cup clashes are also in Hoppers favour by four to four. The pre-season game played at Lightfoot Green back in 2011 turned out to be a comprehensive victory for the visitors. So there have been twenty two games in all between the two clubs, Hoppers winning fourteen to Sedgley Park’s eight.

And as a footnote, a sight not seen very often at Lightfoot Green. JP complete with fist pump and snarl dashing across the whitewash………… was enough to have the kids rushing for the exit!

John Peterson

Photographs courtesy of Rod Murray

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