Fylde welcome Hull RUFC to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 3pm) for only their third ever visit. Whilst Fylde lead National Two (North) and newly promoted Hull are in 14th place, the home side will certainly not be complacent. Fylde’s narrow victory over strugglers Luctonians last Saturday illustrated the competitiveness of all clubs in the league and there’s little doubt that our visitors on Saturday will pose serious problems for Fylde, particularly through their powerful pack.
The origin of Hull RUFC goes back to 1989 when the old club of Hull & East Riding RUFC merged with Hull Ionians. A group of disaffected H&ER members began a new club, H&ER RUFC (1989), and this morphed into Hull RUFC in 1992 when it merged with Old Hymerians. The new club took over the tenancy of the Old Boys ground at Haworth Park where they remained until 2008 when they moved to the Ferens Ground in the City.
Since 1992 the two principal rugby union clubs based in/near Hull have vied with each other for primacy in a strongly rugby league city. Ionians have maintained a National League presence since 2002 and Hull RUFC followed them in 2009 for six seasons before their relegation back to North Premier (level 5) in 2015.
The rise of Hulll RUFC has been greatly assisted by the generous long term sponsorship from house builders Beal Homes.
Their ambition pretty much from the off was illustrated by a string of high profile signings of dual code stars such as Leroy McKenzie and Tevita Vaikona, and others with international/Premiership experience like Chris Murphy and Latu Makaafi.
There have been just four league games between Fylde and Hull RUFC, in seasons 2009-10 and 2010-11. In 2009-10 Hull took the honours with victories at the Ferens Ground by 31-25 and at the Woodlands by 16-25. The following season saw this reversed with Fylde victorious by 37-8 at home and 9-31 in Hull.
Once relegated in 2015, the Club regrouped and fought their way to become one of the top four in the North Premier division. A runners-up spot in 2017-18 earned them a home play-off place against Peterborough. Against all predictions, the Midlands club won the game and promotion to N2(North). Last season Hull were back at it and they had a brilliant campaign with 24 victories and just two defeats, storming to the championship by a margin of 19 points.
They started this season in fine style with a gritty 22-all draw at Huddersfield and excellent wins at home to Tynedale (36-29) and at Stourbridge (14-19). Subsequently life has become somewhat more difficult with home defeats to Hinckley (18-36), Caldy (17-31) and most recently to Sedgley Park (24-27). A sequence of very narrow losses away at Chester (14-5), Loughborough Students (22-17), Sheffield Tigers (12-9) and Otley (27-23) shows the squad’s competitiveness and quality if not with a great deal of luck. This is a team that demands the greatest respect and will prove very tough competition for Fylde.
Their Head Coach is the very experienced Gary Pearce and he has built a loyal squad of players. Perhaps the most notable ‘new’ recruit is the excellent veteran Tongan international Latu Maakafi. The much travelled backrower has re-joined Hull after spells with Bradford & Bingley (2 seasons), Hull (1), Wharfedale (1), Doncaster K (2), Rotherham (1), Jersey (1), Doncaster K (2) and most recently Coventry (2).
The formidable Hull pack includes experienced hooker Ali Thomson (ex-Sheffield Tigers, Rotherham Titans, Doncaster Knights & Hull Ionians), Portugese international prop Mike Dias (ex-Rotherham Titans, Sheffield Tigers & Hull Ionians) and flanker Laurence Cowan (ex-Ionians & Birmingham Moseley). The overseas strand is evident with the inclusion in the squad of prop Tiploma Kivalu (ex-Steelers ITM (NZ), Counties Manakau (NZ), Chinnor, Coventry & Otley) and winger Tomassi Tanumi (ex-Newport Salop, Birmingham Solihull & Stourbridge).
The playmaker and principal goal kicker is Simon Humberstone, formerly of Pontypridd, Cardiff Blues and Doncaster Knights.
Fylde make four changes in their starting line-up from that which won at Luctonians last Saturday. Lex Botha returns to the right wing berth whilst in the pack skipper Adam Lewis and Alex Loney join the front row and Jacob Conner is at blindside flanker. He joins in the backrow Ben Gregory, dropping back from hooker to openside wing forward, and no 8 Hallam Chapman. David Fairbrother was injured at Luctonians and Ben Vernon is unavailable this week.
Jonny Wild and Ben O’Ryan are named amongst the replacements.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Lex Botha, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Scott Rawlings, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Adam Lanigan; 1 Elliott Horner, 2 Alex Loney, 3 Adam Lewis (c), 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Jacob Conner, 7 Ben Gregory, 8 Hallam Chapman.
16 Matt Ashcroft, 17 Drew Stephenson, 18 Jonny Wild, 19 Ben O’Ryan, 20 Tom Forster.
Chris Farrow’s photos, above and below, from 10 years ago, April 2010.