Wharfedale Preview

Date: 27 April 2017

As the 2016/17 season draws to a close, Preston Grasshoppers entertain Wharfedale this Saturday in their final game of what’s turned out to be a disastrous season for the home side.

By Mike Forshaw.

Things didn’t look too bad for the Hoppers back in September last as they returned from Yorkshire after gaining what turned out to be their only victory on the road back on the opening game of the season. A late try by Conor Trueman gave the visitors the breathing space they needed and whilst it hadn’t been the most convincing of performances against reportedly a very weakened home side, Hoppers had a confidence boosting victory under their belts and that without the previous season’s influential players who had left the club during the summer.

As we now know, this was to be a false dawn for Hoppers and their opponents also took their time to adjust to Level 4 rugby. However the closing stages of the season have been vastly different for the two clubs. While Preston Grasshoppers have recorded just two wins since Christmas, our visitors have won five and managed to pull themselves away from the precarious position they once found themselves in now occupied by their hosts this week.

Looking back at both sides last weekend shows the different view of current form. Whilst Wharfedale ran the new league champions Caldy very close at Freshfields, Hoppers mirrored their last home game against Harrogate, falling away badly at Sale after leading for a short period thanks to a couple of tries from their wingers.

All that being said, the Hoppers players and coaches will look to go out of this league (hopefully only a temporary blip) with a win under their belts and complete a first double of the season.

A brief look to when we last found ourselves in this position back in 2004 and we see that Waterloo finished as Champions with Halifax runners up. Only Tynedale from this season were in our division then and Hoppers finished third from bottom with Liverpool St Helens and Longton below them. This was the last season that the two points for a win system was in operation and had the present one been in force, Hoppers would have survived.

The league we dropped into contained just Morley and Hull out of those we’ll be meeting next season plus Birkenhead Park if they’re successful in their play off match on Saturday against Penrith.

A look at our visitors recent history shows us that after serving twenty consecutive terms playing Level Three rugby Wharfedale finally succumbed to their one and only relegation at the end of last season. This season is the first time the two 1st XV’s have met in a competitive match since our meetings at that level during Preston Grasshoppers three year stint there. The last of these games ended in a heavy defeat for Hoppers at Freshfields on the 19th of January 2002.

Hoppers and Wharfedale have met in League action on just nine occasions in the past with the Yorkshire side leading the way with five wins against Hoppers four, so the home side will be looking to even things up this Saturday.

Before the two clubs met each other in League action, there were four Club Games, the first of these taking place at Lightfoot Green back on the 1st of April 1991 when our opponents went under the name of Upper Wharfedale in the fixture book and whilst Hoppers were competing in National 3 North, our opponents league fixtures took place two levels below in North 2. A sign of things to come from the Yorkshire club came with the visitors achieving a narrow victory on the day by ten points to four. In the return fixture the following season in Yorkshire, Hoppers recorded their one and only victory at that venue by eighteen points to twelve.

Before this seasons opening fixture, the last meeting between the two sides was a pre-season practice game over in The Dales prior to the 2009/10 season in which the home side came out winners by thirty eight points to twenty one. This aside, there have been twelve matches played between the two clubs at 1st XV level with Wharfedale leading the way by eight wins to Hoppers four.

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