Fylde travel to old friends and Lancashire rivals, Sedgley Tigers, on Saturday (ko 14.30). Fylde are unbeaten in their last five fixtures but will face a major challenge to take points from Park Lane, Whitefield. The Tigers are in 7th place in National Two (North) whilst Fylde are 5th.
The two clubs have a close relationship built on mutual respect and in the context of their joint commitment to Lancashire county rugby. A number of players in the current squads have played for both clubs. Sedgley’s Steve Collins, Callum McShane, Mark Goodman and Danny Maher have made many appearances for Fylde. Fylde’s Chris Briers, Greg Smith, Adam Lewis and Olli Parkinson have spent seasons at Park Lane. Many of the other players know each other very well from Lancashire U’20s and senior squad duties.
Despite this close relationship, there have only been eight previous league games between the two clubs. These fixtures began in 2001 and the first four games up to 2003 were all won by Sedgley. The clubs then went their different ways, with Sedgley eventually elevated to the Championship (level 2) between 2004 – 2009 as Fylde slipped to level 4. Sedgley’s relegation to National One, and Fylde’s promotion to that division in 2011, brought the clubs together again in the period 2011 – 2013. The four games in this sequence were all won by Fylde. So the bragging rights are shared.
The rise of the Tigers from the Northern regional leagues to the heights of the Championship where they survived for five heady seasons was a kind of fairy tale. Quality recruitment and coaching plus astute management off the field was the basis of this success. They achieved this without over stretching their financial resources, no mean achievement for a club which struggled to attract big crowds in football dominated Manchester.
The Tigers have been pushing for promotion from National Two (North) in the last five seasons, twice finishing runners up yet losing the respective play-off games. This season they have performed well at home, with five home wins out of seven games. Their away form has been less impressive with two victories and seven defeats.
Their Head Coach is Matt Bebbington, assisted by amongst others their Forwards Coach, former Fylde hooker (and Kirkham Grammar School teacher) Jonny Roddam.
The Sedgley squad is characterised by loyalty and a deep commitment to the Club. This is summed up by the extraordinary service provided by, for instance, the so called ‘Sedgley Truck, Matt Riley. The powerful centre has made some 340 1st XV appearances for the club since 2005. From 2012 to date he’s been accompanied in the Sedgley backline by full back or winger, brother Andrew who has himself run up 180 appearances.
The current half-back partnership is frequently the two ex-Fylde favourites, scrum-half Callum McShane and goal kicking fly-half Steve Collins. More recent moves have seen flanker Mark Goodman and hooker Danny Maher move from the Woodlands to Park Lane. Maher has had a stellar scoring record in his season and a half with Sedgley, notching 21 tries last season and another 7 to date in this campaign.
Whilst their backline is unchanged, Fylde make four changes to their starting pack. A new experienced front row sees the return for his first game of the season, of prop Jonny Wild, together with Alex Loney and skipper Adam Lewis who missed the Huddersfield game due to the birth of his son Arthur. Matt Garrod begins in the 2nd row. Chris Briers is fit again and join the replacements bench.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 James Bailey, 13 Ralph Dowds, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Jonny Wild, 2 Alex Loney, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Ben Vernon, 7 Ben O’Ryan, 8 Jacob Conner.
16 Bevan Rodd, 17 Ben Gregory, 18 Nick Ashcroft, 19 Chris Briers, 20 Luke Fowden.