Fylde v Wharfedale match preview
Fylde welcomes old friends and rivals Wharfedale to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 15.00) in an important National Two (North) fixture. Thanks to three successive victories, Fylde go into the game in 5th place in the division whilst ‘the Green Machine’ is 8th . This will be the 22nd meeting between the two clubs and will be as keenly contested as ever.
The last visit of Wharfedale to the Woodlands was in National One, April 2016, at the end of their run of 20 consecutive seasons in that division, a record which still stands. In the match programme for that last game, we wished them a swift return to level 3 so that fixtures between the clubs could resume. We didn’t have in mind that this resumption would happen in N2N! Nevertheless, we are very pleased to welcome the Greens back to the Woodlands.
It’s illuminating to see the changes in the Fylde line-up that day just two and a half years ago with the current squad. Of the 20 players in April 2016, only six remain – Chris Briers, Jonny Wild, Adam Lewis, Matt Garrod, David Fairbrother and Connor Wilkinson. The other 14 have moved on to other clubs or retired – Jordan Dorrington (Vale of Lune), Anthony Bingham (Sale FC), Sam Bedlow (Bristol Bears), Oli Brennand (retired), Tom Morton (Macclesfield), Greg Nicholls (Blackburn), Danny Maher (Sedgley Park), Gareth Rawlings (Sale FC), Mark Goodman (Sedgley Park), Evan Stewart (retired), Simon Griffiths (Sale FC), Olly Trippier (Preston G), Nick Grey (Caldy) and Scott Rawlings (Longton).
Following Wharfedale’s relegation from Nat One, their first season at the lower level wasn’t an easy one. It looked at one stage as though they might suffer successive demotions but they staved off this prospect and finished just clear in 13th place.
This season they have fared significantly better and to date have won six matches and lost six. An onlooker would think that ‘inconsistent’ might sum up their form. Excellent victories at home to Sedgley Park (26-19) and Preston Grasshoppers (39-22), and away at South Leicester (19-22), have been interspersed with defeats at Hinckley (33-24), Hull Ionians (20-12), Chester (28-25) and at home to Otley (14-16) and on Saturday against Sheffield Tigers (26-35). Note that they have been highly competitive in all their games and when they’ve gone down it’s never been by more than 10 points. There’s little doubt that Saturday’s game will be hard and close.
The first ever game between the clubs was in the 1995-6 season, just as the game was going professional. Since then, Fylde have won fifteen of the matches, Wharfedale five and one has been drawn. A number of these games have been extremely tight with just a few points separating them. A couple of exceptions were the first ever game when Fylde triumphed by 54-18 in December 1995 and in September 2000 when a weakened Fylde squad were overrun by a Wharfedale team inspired by England international flyhalf David Pears and were humiliated 72-10 at Threshfield.
One of the few beneficial effects of Fylde’s relegation to N2N this season is the annual trip to the beautiful Threshfield Ground, recognised as the most scenic and atmospheric of English rugby locations. Mark the 30th March 2019 in your diaries for this treat!
The Green’s Director of Rugby is the recently retired, highly influential no 8 Rob Baldwin. Head Coach is Jon Feeley and he’s assisted by Jon Skurr. ‘Dale moved to strengthen their squad in the summer with a group of newcomers including former England U’20s flanker Chris Walker – ex-Otley, Doncaster Knights, London Scottish, Yorkshire Carnegie and Rennes (Fr), including a great deal of Championship experience – utility back Will Edwards (ex-Loughborough Students), fly-half Jack Blakeney-Edwards (ex-Darlington Mowden Park & Otley), lock Ben Leacock (ex-Kendal) and George Martin (ex-Sedbergh School and Huddersfield)
The Greens’ pack is traditionally strong and the Fylde forwards will have to face difficult challenges in the tight and loose exchanges. There are some familiar faces likely to be involved on Saturday including prop Joe Altham, brother of former Fylde favourite Peter, hooker Dan Stockdale, locks George Hedgley and Richard Rhodes, and very influential no 8 Josh Burridge.
Leading scorer is Blakeney-Edwards (77 points), with most tries by Rian Hamilton (8), Rhys Lovegrove (5) and George Hedgley (4)
The Greens’ squad is
15 Harry Bullough; 14 Rian Hamilton, 13 Ben Blackwell, 12 Rhys Lovegrove, 11 Oliver Cicognini; 10 Jack Blakeney-Edwards, 9 Phil Woodhead; 1 Joe Altham, 2 Dan Stockdale, 3 Reece Ward, 4 George Hedgley (c), 5 Richard Rhodes, 6 Matty Houghton, 7 James Tyson, 8 Josh Burridge.
16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Toms Asejevs, 18 Kieran Frost, 19 Chris Walker, 20 Sam Gaudie.
Fylde make two changes in their starting line-up compared with the 15 who began the Chester match. Due to injuries at Hare Lane, Henry Hadfield and David Fairbrother are ruled out. They are replaced by winger James Bailey, back after a long absence through injury, and Harlan Corrie. Ben O’Ryan and Luke Fowden join the replacements.
15 Tom Carleton, 14 James Bailey, 13 Ralph Dowds, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes, 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Nick Ashcroft, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Ben Vernon, 8 Sam Dugdale.
16 Adam Joyner, 17 Ewan Ashman, 18 Matt Garrod, 19 Ben O’Ryan, 20 Luke Fowden.
Referee: James O’Brien; AR1 Dean Lythgoe, AR2 Dr. Tim Brown.