Fylde v Esher: match preview

Fylde welcome Esher to the Woodlands on Saturday for a very attractive National One match (ko 3pm). Fylde’s fate in National One is now known but Esher, in 12th place, are still battling relegation, unlikely as this is with just six fixtures remaining for them.

If the past four seasons are anything to go by, Saturday’s game promises to be another high scoring points fest. In eleven matches, there has been an average of 56 points scored by two teams committed to open, attacking rugby.

The Surrey club is one of the division’s big hitters, is ambitious but has rather punched under its weight in recent campaigns. It started strongly in 2015-16 but rather fell away after Christmas to finish in 8th place. Last season they finished in the same final position.

Esher was established in 1923, four years later than Fylde, but it didn’t break through to the national level until the mid-1990s. Fylde played Esher for the first time in the 2000/1 season at level three, then called National Two. The clubs met a total of six times in the three seasons leading up to Fylde’s relegation from that division in 2002/3. All were won by the Surrey club.

2000/1 Fylde 14-20 Esher Esher 29-10 Fylde
2001/2 Esher 26-3 Fylde Fylde 13-27 Esher
2002/3 Fylde 20-21 Esher Esher 61-21 Fylde

The two clubs’ fortunes diverged after 2003 as Fylde slipped to level four whilst in 2006/7 Esher gained promotion to the Championship, level two. They were very unfortunate to be relegated in the final game of the 2011/12 season.

Since the clubs found themselves back at level 3 in 2012, there have been eleven high scoring games at an average of 56 points per match. With the help of a double victory last season, Esher have the bragging rights with seven victories against Fylde’s four.

2012/13 Fylde 39-22 Esher Esher 33-24 Fylde
2013/14 Esher 27-24 Fylde Fylde 33-7 Esher
2014/15 Esher 29-28 Fylde Fylde 48-17 Esher
2015/16 Fylde 21-31 Esher Esher 26-24 Fylde
2016/17 Fylde 26-20 Esher Esher 42-29 Fylde
2017/18 Esher 50-12 Fylde

Esher has a similar ‘all club’ approach to that of Fylde, with six senior teams playing regular fixtures along with an Academy XV and a very buoyant Mini-Junior section. The most well known personality closely connected with the Club is past player and official John Inverdale, the BBC broadcaster.

The experienced Director of Rugby is Ricky Nebbett.

Strengths of the squad, as evidenced by the 50-12 victory over Fylde in November, include a big and dynamic pack. This is based on the foundation of props Cameron Zeiss (ex-Tarbe, Yorkshire Carnegie & Plymouth Albion) Kiwi Karl Furey and Oliver Mines, and hooker Billy Harding (ex-Stourbridge). The main lock pairing is Ollie Marriott and Liam Edwards whilst their backrow roster includes Hugo Seccombe, Cameron Gentiles and Charles Gossington.

This season has seen the return to action of ex-Fylde no 8, Harrison Collins. The former Lancashire school student progressed to Durham University and was a team mate of Josh Beaumont in a very good DURFC 1st team which won considerable honours. He made his debut in Fylde’s N2N championship season in 2010-11, moved to join Tynedale and featured in Newcastle Falcons Academy. He moved to London in 2014 and joined Esher where he has made 66 1st XV appearances. He lost the whole of the 2016-17 season through injury but returned this season.

In their back line, the half-back partnership has been fluid, with the very experienced goal kicking fly-halves Paul Roberts (formerly Doncaster, Plymouth & Bath) and Stephen Boatman, along with scrum-halves Andrew Garner, Tom Trotter and Niall Saunders. Dangerous runners include fullback Lloyd Davies, wingers Joe Beckett, Spencer Sutherland and Tom James, and centres Dan Rowland and Joe Brown.

Leading scorers are Paul Roberts with 102 points and Stephen Boatman with 66. The try scoring rank is led by Will Harding (9 tries), Tom James (7) and Kariym Irving (6).

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Fylde make three changes in their starting line-up with the return of wing Henry Hadfield, centre Luke Fowden and backrower Harlan Corrie.

15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Luke Fowden, 11 James Bailey; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Adam Lewis, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Mark Irving, 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Tom Burtonwood, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Dan Richardson, 17 Alex Loney, 18 Matt Garrod, 19 Toby Harrison, 20 Jake Foster.