Fylde travel to fellow promotion contenders Hull Ionians on Saturday – a match up of 1st v 3rd in National Two (North) at Brantingham Park (ko 14.00). Up to a month or so ago, Ionians looked firm favourites to become eventual champions with an eleven points lead. The fixtures and weather haven’t helped the Yorkshire club as three successive defeats in tough away games – at Wharfedale, Stourbridge and Chester – and a postponed home fixture have resulted in the chasing pack pulling them back into the peloton with Fylde edging up to the top slot.
Back on their well appointed home ground on Saturday, they will fancy earning a double over Fylde who they put firmly in their place, 29-41, at the Woodlands in October. That defeat galvanised Fylde and the Lancastrians then began a run of 13 games with 11 victories, a draw and just one defeat.
This will be the 23rd match between the clubs made up of 22 league games and one National Cup match. Hull Ionians have won 8, Fylde 13 and one drawn, with Ionians winning the last three.
Both were relegated from National One last season so it is heartening to see them turning around their respective fortunes this campaign, rather than continuing to slip down the divisions..
Ionians leading scorer is goal kicking centre Lewis Minikin who has a total of 175 points. Top of the try scoring list are the highly dangerous winger Sam Wilson and Minikin with 11, followed by prop Ben Bell with 7
Fylde make three changes in their starting line-up for the trip. Ralph Dowds returns at centre after missing the Hinckley game due to the removal of all four wisdom teeth. Gus Warr takes his turn to start the game at scrum-half whilst Ben Vernon returns to the backrow in place of the injured Jacob Connor. Amongst the replacements, prop Elliot Horner has recovered from an injury which has kept him out of action for five weeks. Flanker Harlan Corrie also returns.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Ralph Dowds, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Nick Ashcroft, 6 Ben O’Ryan, 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 Ben Vernon.
16 Elliot Horner, 17 Cal Ford, 18 Harlan Corrie, 19 Cameron Crampton, 20 Lex Botha.