Preston Grasshoppers vs. Westoe – Kick Off 2.30pm
Preston Grasshoppers RFC are able to name a very strong lineup despite no fewer than 8 players being called up for senior county action. The line up sees several changes from last week, including the return of prop Liam Launders after a season on loan at Hawick in Scotland. Also in the team is last years skipper Wayne Steel plus exciting youngsters Ollie Farley, Greg Horsfall, Dom Aspinall and Ollie Hamilton.
Liam Launders, Chris Gale, Dan Madden, Wayne Steel, Richard Morton, Kilian Wallace, Eddie Webster, Alex Austin, Sam Kindred, Josh Purnell, Matt Hughes, Ollie Farley, Karl Fitzpatrick, Adam Birchall, Greg Horsfall
Replacements: Alan Holmes, Dom Aspinall, Ollie Hamilton, Owen McKenna, Lewis Allen
The forthcoming Bank Holiday Weekend sees three important fixtures for Hoppers Senior team squad.
Firstly Saturday’s fixture against Westoe is a twice rearranged game from earlier in the year when the intervening weather caused cancellations and Hoppers will be hoping to add a seventh ‘double’ to this season’s tally after failing at the same hurdle last week at Darlington Mowden Park’s impressive Northern Echo Arena.
Also on Saturday, our Second XV try to win the Raging Bull Cup against Caldy in the final being played at Wilmslow’s Memorial Ground with a 3.30 kick off time. This will be the fourth appearance in the eight Premiership Cup Finals to date for a Hoppers team. Their only victory however coming seven years ago at Fleetwood against Macclesfield.
Bank Holiday Monday will see Preston Grasshoppers bid to retain the Lancashire Cup in a repeat of last year’s final played at Fylde against Sedgley Park. This years event will be held at Park Lane the home ground of our opponents by way of the toss of a coin.
This season has seen Westoe struggle at the bottom end of the table all season and a couple of weeks ago the inevitable happened when their fate was sealed along with Huddersfield and Stockport all of who they’ll be playing in North 1 next season. Whilst Hoppers won’t miss the long trek up to South Shields, we hope Westoe make a swift return to Level 4 rugby. This may arrive sooner rather than later as relegation has accompanied some frugal management of funds in an effort to ensure the club’s survival. News that a new home is on the horizon with Wood Lane being sold for development could signal the club’s rise back up to National 2 North in quick time.
The make up of our league now looks a little clearer after last weekend’s play off match saw a quick return for our old friends from Harrogate who defeated Sutton Coldfield in a play off match down in the midlands. They together with North and Midlands champions Chester and Amptill should replace the three relegated clubs from our league, all depending on how many are promoted from N2N and any possible level transfers.
This coming Saturday will decide who are Champions of our league with Caldy having something to say about the outcome. A bonus point victory for Hull Ionians over the Cheshire side will make Stourbridge have to sweat it out for another week before playing either Henley or Worthing at home in a play off to decide their fate. By a strange twist of fate, these two N2S sides play each other in a shoot out at Henley who currently have a one point disadvantage from their opponents. It would be rather ironic that the club who have headed National 2 North from week 1 until the result at Brantingham Park just over a couple of weeks ago finally tipped them from their lofty perch have now to go to a decider with the second places club from N2S.
Relegation matters from National 1 still aren’t totally clear but our Lancashire Cup Final opponents Sedgley Park will definitely be playing us next season in N2N. Things still aren’t decided between Macclesfield and Wharfedale as to who will face the drop, although the Yorkshire side hold the advantage of a game in hand while both clubs have the same number of points. Macclesfield must beat Fylde at home next weekend to stand any chance, whilst Wharfedale visit bottom of the table Cambridge.
League fixtures against this week’s opponents began relatively recently when the North East club gained promotion into the National Leagues from North 1 at the end of the 2008/9 season. In the six meetings since their promotion, Hoppers have won the first and last of four fixtures at Wood Lane, and both teams have a victory at Lightfoot Green.
Club fixtures between the two clubs go back to the 1975/6 season when Hoppers won at Lightfoot Green by thirteen points to four on the 11th of October and there has been a total of fourteen meetings, Hoppers leading the way with nine victories to Westoe’s four with one ending all square.