Fylde make their shortest journey of the National Two (North) season when they travel to Lightfoot Green to resume local rivalries with Preston Grasshoppers on Saturday (ko 14.30).
The last 1st XV league fixture between the clubs was on the 19th March 2011, Fylde’s promotion season. Since the Millennium there have been 14 league fixtures, with Fylde winning 11 and ‘Hoppers 3. But, of course, games between the two clubs go back to early in the 20th century. Whatever the subsequent rivalries, it should be remembered that ‘Hoppers helped in the formation of their younger neighbours back in 1919 and the early, inexperienced Fylde officials at that time were extremely grateful. Both clubs are looking forward to important anniversaries in 2019-20, with Hoppers 150 years old and Fylde’s celebrating their centenary.
Since the formation of league rugby in the 1980s, both clubs have spent significant periods at levels 3 and 4 in the RFU hierarchy. Both have had ups and downs but still have important roles and represent strong ‘brands’ in Lancashire, North West and English rugby.
Two levels separated the clubs last season but ‘Hoppers outstanding promotion from North Premier (level 5) and Fylde’s disappointing relegation from National One (level 3) have brought them back together again. So local rugby supporters can once again enjoy derby matches, if rather differently scheduled than the famous Boxing Day ‘friendlies’ which are so affectional remembered by players and supporters alike in this area of Lancashire. Both clubs will look forward to two exciting games, big crowds and good ‘pay days’, on Saturday at Lightfoot Green and on the 22nd December at the Woodlands.
Many players from both clubs and have swapped allegiances over the years. ‘Hoppers’ Head Coach, Paul Arnold, played a major role in Fylde’s success for seven seasons as player and coach and both experienced and young former Fylde players such as Peter Altham, Matt Lamprey and Oli Trippier are now playing important parts in the current Hoppers squad. ‘Hoppers, like Fylde, have had a very productive youth development system and talents in the Fylde squad such as Connor Wilkinson and Tom Grimes have benefitted from it. It was ever such.
‘Hoppers’ North Premier 2017-18 season was a very successful rebuilding job following their relegation the previous campaign. Not only did they cruise to the championship with 23 wins out of 26 games but they picked up 4 try bonus points in 22 of them and scored more points, 897, than any other club in the division.
One new notable factor compared with all previous games between the clubs is that Saturday’s match will be played on the Artificial Grass Pitch, now increasingly common around England. Fylde played on a number last season in National One so it should hold no surprises for them.
Back in N2N this season, ‘Hoppers earned a bonus point in their difficult opening fixture at Chester last Saturday whilst going down by 48-37 in an attractive, high scoring affair. No 8, Matt Lamprey, carried on his try scoring exploits of last season with a brace. Another try scorer was the influential and powerful centre, James Fitzpatrick, formerly with Newcastle Falcons, Yorkshire Carnegie, Blaydon, Darlington Mowden Park & Westoe, who had a very successful 2017-18 at Lightfoot Green.
Fylde have named their squad:
[Header photo: match action from Fylde v Preston Grasshoppers in April 2009. Craig Aikman on the burs
It’s a double header at Lightfoot Green as Preston Grasshoppers 2nds entertain Fylde Hawks (KO 12.00). Players in both squads would appreciate vocal backing so please see if you can arrive early.
Referee James O’Brien; AR1 Dr.Tim Brown, AR2 Carl Walsh.