[Photo courtesy of Peterborough Lions RFC]
Fylde welcome National Two newcomers, Peterborough Lions, to the Woodlands for the first time on Saturday (ko 15.00). Our visitors will be in good heart following their opening win of the season, 17-10, at home against high flying Chester last Saturday.
The Lions are one of four National Two (North) clubs that Fylde haven’t met before in league action. The others are leaders Hinckley, South Leicester and Sheffield Tigers. From Peterborough to the Fylde Coast is around 200 miles and not that easy a journey. They have rather struggled in the opening weeks following promotion from the Midlands Premier Division last season but have had a very tough early roster of fixtures resulting in their current 15th place in the division. However, they have an excellent squad and will ask all kinds of questions of Fylde on Saturday.
Quoted in the local newspaper a couple of weeks ago, Chairman Andy Moore said: “I honestly didn’t expect to pick up any points in September. We’ve been playing the best teams in the division after suffering a dreadful pre-season campaign when teams kept pulling out of playing us. We’ve gone up considerably in standard while trying to mould a new group of players so it was always going to be difficult. We will only get better the more experience we gain … we will come good, I’m sure of that.” And so it proved last Saturday against Chester.
Peterborough are an ambitious club making waves in the Eastern Counties region and now on a national stage. They have bobbed around between levels 6 (Midlands East) and 5 (Midlands Premier) for the last decade before building steadily towards promotion to National Two. They finished in 3rd, 4th and 4th in successive seasons before ending last season in 2nd place behind Birmingham Solihull. They qualified for the play-off and beat Hull to earn their highest ever league status.
The Club was formed in 1944 by workers at the town’s Baker Perkins factory. In 2005 the club changed its name to Peterborough Lions and signed a deal to play its home games at Peterborough United Football Ground. Promotion to Midland 4 rapidly followed. A change in ownership at the football club saw the Lions move after two successful seasons to the East of England Showground for the 2007-8 season. Finally, for the first time since leaving Baker Perkins at the end of the 1980s, the club moved to Bretton Park in 2008 where they have established good social, playing and training facilities. Further ground improvements are planned, with hopes for a new 400-seater stand in place next season which will include six corporate boxes, a new bar and changing rooms.
On the pitch, the Lions took a big step forward in the appointment of legendary Tongan international, Vili Ma’asi, as Head Coach in the summer of 2017 to work with Director of Rugby, Simon Moyle. Former front rower Ma’asi won 36 caps for his country and played 195 games in the English National Leagues – for Yorkshire Carnegie, Cornish Pirates, London Welsh and most recently Ampthill.
Ma’asi moved to strengthen his squad with some eye catching signings in the summer. These included Argentinian Franco Perticaro, a 25 year-old livewire scrum-half from Buenos Aires, where he plays for the San Fernando Rugby Club. Other recruits include former England U’16s prop Charlie Robinson (ex-Birmingham Solihull & Bedford Blues Academy), versatile forward Jack Askham (ex-Cambridge & Ampthill) and abrasive, powerful Kiwi no 8, Aki Lea, (ex-Manawatu, Eastern Counties and most recently Shelford).
One of the young stars in the Lions backline is Vili Ma’asi’s son, Suva, a developing and dangerous young centre who has already attracted the interest of Exeter Chiefs. He is joined in the backs by accomplished fullback Shaquille Meyers (ex-Bury St Edmunds), winger Rory White and goal kicking fly-half Ben Young
The Lions pack includes props Josh Waller and Alex Ioannou, locks Tom Lewis, Will Nankevil and Marius Andrijauskas, and backrowers Jake Carter and skipper Conor Gracey alongside Aki Lea. Leading try scorers are Young, Nankevil and Lea with two. Leading points scorer overall is Young with 24 points.
Fylde have lost experienced backrowers David Fairbrother and Ben Vernon following calf and concussion injuries respectively and they join skipper Adam Lewis amongst the absentees. Sam Dugdale starts at no 8 and Ben O’Ryan at openside flanker. Elliot Horner returns at loose head prop in what is possibly Fylde’s youngest ever group of forwards. Replacements Adam Joyner, Ewan Ashman & Nick Ashcroft hardly add many years to the calculation! Prop Cal Ford makes his home league debut as will his fellow Sale Sharks Academy hooker Ewan Ashman if he comes on from the bench.
The backs are unchanged apart the return of scrum-half Cameron Crampton who has missed the last three games following injury against Macclesfield at the Woodlands. The full line-up is:
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers (c), 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Cal Ford, 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Ben O’Ryan, 8 Sam Dugdale.
16 Adam Joyner, 17 Ewan Ashman, 18 Nick Ashcroft, 19 Adam Lanigan, 20 Luke Fowden.