Fylde travel to Hare Lane to meet Chester for the first time ever in league competition on Saturday (ko 3pm). For two well established North West clubs, it’s surprising since the establishment of leagues that the respective 1st XVs haven’t met in the past.
In the period from 2002 until 2013, Chester were almost always competing in North One, level 5 in the RFU league structure. They had an outstanding campaign in 2012-13 when they finished as champions of National Three (North) and were promoted to National Two (North). They have performed very well since then, finishing 5th, 5th, 11th, 5th & 7th last season.
This campaign has seen Chester competing at the top of the division and they currently sit in 2nd place on the heels of leaders Hull Ionians. They have won nine of their eleven games and remain unbeaten at Hare Lane, beating Preston Grasshoppers (48-37), Leicester Lions (24-12), Hinckley (19-0), Stourbridge (27-22), Tynedale (33-22) and Wharfedale (28-25). Away wins at Macclesfield (10-24), Sheffield Tigers (18-24) and South Leicester 0-27). Their only two setbacks have been at Peterborough Lions (17-10) and less surprisingly but agonisingly close at leaders Hull Ionians (25-24). With four successive victories behind them, Chester will go into the game full of confidence.
Chester’s Head Coach is the very well known and respected former player Jan van Deventer. His leading scorers are two backs who have shared the goal kicking responsibilities – centre James Robbins (47 points) amd scrum-half Josh Morris (37 points). Principal try scorers are Mike Craven (5), Matt van Sertima (4) and Sean Green, Craig Ross, Alix Croft, Richard Craven, Andrew Baston and Guy Ford, all with 3. No 8/flanker Ford is one of the most experienced and influential players in the squad and has made almost 150 appearances for the Club, was with Otley and Bradford & Bingley before that and was chosen in The Rugby Paper’s Team of the Season in 2017-18.
With two successive high scoring wins at Stourbridge (18-36) and at home to South Leicester (42-20) behind them, Fylde also go into the game with confidence. They make three changes in their starting XV, with Gus Warr beginning the game at scrum-half, centre Ralph Dowds, a late replacement for the injured Chris Briers, and Ben Vernon returning to the backrow. Harlan Corrie returns to the squad amongst the replacements.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Ralph Dowds, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Ben Vernon, 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Bevan Rodd, 17 Ewan Ashman, 18 Matt Garrod, 19 Harlan Corrie, 20 Cameron Crampton
Photo above courtesy of Chester RUFC.
Hooker Tom Burtonwood has joined Blackburn RUFC. The Club wishes him the very best of luck in the future.