Fylde welcome Sheffield Tigers to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 15.00) for the first ever league meeting between the clubs. The two clubs have co-existed for 84 years but in rather different rugby worlds so it is especially interesting to see them coming together in National Two (North) competition now.
The Tigers were for many years in the shadow of Sheffield RUFC who are based at Abbeydale Park in the city. The Tigers now hold the bragging rights, competing at level four with their rivals at level 5. The Tigers’ home is at Dore Road in the South West of the city, a staggeringly beautiful setting which can be, to say the least, a little cold and exposed in mid-winter!
The Tigers have yo-yo’d between National Two and the North Premier division. In the last 12 seasons, they have had five campaigns at level 4 and seven at level 5. They finished in 10th place in National Two (North) last season and 13th the previous year. Like Fylde, the Tigers run four senior teams and a healthy Mini-Junior Section.
The Tigers have had a good start to this season, with handsome victories over fancied opponents, at home to Stourbridge (24-11) and at South Leicester (22-41) and narrow defeats at Hull Ionians (35-33) and last Saturday at home to Chester (18-24). With 16 tries, they haven’t found scoring too difficult.
The Tigers’ Head Coach is also one of their star players. Jamie Broadley is a highly experienced, hard running and try scoring centre, formerly with Rotherham Titans and Harrogate. His productivity in the last two seasons for the Tigers has been outstanding, with 50 tries in 56 matches. He leads a three quarter line of great running and creative talent, including the equally experienced fullback or wing Pete Swatkins, centre Tom Hart and wingers Greg Mellor and Henri Packard. Collectively, they are likely to enjoy the wide open spaces of the Woodlands pitch. The playmaker is fly-half Mark Ireland, (formerly at Otley & Kendal) who is the principal goal kicker and has been the team’s top scorer in his three seasons with the Tigers. Given the quality of the Fylde backs, this game could be the meeting of the two most creative back divisions in N2N this season.
The Tigers have a strong pack, including tight head prop Tony ‘Junior’ Gelsthorpe, a former world powerlifting champion, newcomer Surrey County hooker Sam Johnson (ex-Rosslyn Park & Dorking), established locks Lee Orton and Alan Symcox, powerful no 8 Frank Wragg and German international flanker Kain Rix.
Leading points scorer to date is Mark Ireland with 36, and top try scorer is Henri Packard with four.
Fylde make two changes in their starting line-up, with Chris Briers and Ben Vernon returning to the squad after injury.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 12 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Adam Lanigan; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis (c), 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Ben Vernon, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Adam Joyner, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Matt Ashcroft, 19 Ben O’Ryan, 20 Luke Fowden.