Fylde welcome Leicester Lions to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 3pm) in what is likely to be another very tough National Two (North) game. Whilst the Lions are in 10th place in the division, they are one of the form teams. They have won four of their last five matches including victories over leaders Hull Ionians and 2nd placed Chester so they will provide a very strong challenge to 3rd placed Fylde. The home team is enjoying a sequence of eight successive unbeaten matches, a run not experienced since their promotion season of 2010-11, so they too will go into the game in confident mood.
The Lions had a dreadful start to the season, losing their first five games including a rather extraordinary 31-41 contest against Fylde at TMDP Park in September. They then had an excellent three match spell beating Sedgley Park (32-14) and Preston Grasshoppers (26-24) and most notably winning away at Otley (15-31).
They started December with a win over Peterborough Lions (35-17), lost narrowly at top five Hinckley (24-19) but then they ‘nilled’ leaders Hull Ionians (17-0) in an outstanding performance, came out on top in the derby clash at South Leicester (28-34) before Christmas and opened 2019 by beating Chester (25-19) last Saturday.
The Lions are a stable and consistent part of National Two (North) with 14 consecutive seasons in the division. They climbed to this level from the Midland regional leagues for the first time in 2005/6 when they first met Fylde and these contests carried on for six seasons until Fylde’s promotion to National One. The results were very even during that period with Fylde shading things with 7 wins, 6 victories to the Lions and a draw.
Rather like neighbours South Leicester, they exist in close proximity and in the shadow of Leicester Tigers so it’s hardly surprising that they struggle to attract big crowds. This season they have been buoyed by their new clubhouse, officially opened in September by one of their former players, legendary former Leicester Tigers England lock and Head Coach Martin Johnson. It’s to be hoped that the splendid new facilities will encourage more spectators at TMDP Park.
Under long established head coach Andy Key, the Lions decided in the summer that they needed to strengthen their pack for this season. So they recruited prop Demetrius Gonsalves (Rugby Lions) and back five forwards Tom Nutley (ex-Cambridge & Ampthill), Ed Sumpter (Market Harborough) and Ethan Godefroy (Market Harborough).
New arrivals in the backline include former Cambridge and Bedford Blues fly-half Dan Lewis and centre Max Titchener, on loan from Coventry. A principal danger is winger Devon Constant who in four seasons at the Club has scored 79 tries in just 122 appearances. Leading try scorers this season are fullback Alex Wilcockson (13), Devon Constant (12) and Ethan Godefroy (6). Leading points scorer overall is centre and goal kicker Harry Key with 75 points
[Photo above is Mike Waywell scoring on the last occasion the Lions visited the Woodlands in November 2010 in which they won an exciting game by 30-32. This was Fylde’s only defeat at home in their fine promotion campaign
The Lions line up as:
15 Max Titchener; 14 Sam Benjamin, 13 Jamel Hamilton, 12 Harry Key, 11 Devon Constant; 10 Dan Lewis, 9 Alex Smit; 1 Will Roberts, 2 Oli Taylor, 3 Dan Ali, 4 Ollie Tapscott, 5 Ed Sumpter, 6 Simon Johnson, 7 Jonny Murdoch, 8 Ethan Godefroy.
16 Ben Spokes, 17 Curtis Weaver, 18 Demo Gonsalves, 19 Tom Aviss, 20 Josh Leonard.
Fylde make two enforced changes to their starting line-up. Injuries rule out flanker Ben Vernon and prop Elliot Horner. They are replaced by, respectively, Ben O’Ryan and Bevan Rodd. The backline is unchanged. Prop Callum Ford and scrum-half Gus Warr join the replacements bench.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Ben O’Ryan, 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 Jacob Conner.
16 Callum Ford, 17 Alex Loney, 18 Nick Ashcroft, 19 Gus Warr, 20 Ralph Dowds.
We will be delighted to welcome match sponsors D. Holloway & Sons to the Woodlands on Saturday.