North West rivals Fylde and Caldy renew acquaintances in Saturday’s big Christmas game in National One at the Woodlands (ko 15.00). This is the nearest that there is to ‘a local derby’ for the Lancastrians. Fylde will be looking for a much better performance than in the second game of the season, a 37-19 victory for the Wirral club in early September. Caldy scored a try in the 1st minute that day and Fylde lost two players through injury, including skipper Greg Nicholls with a serious knee problem, within the first ten minutes. It was always a struggle following these setbacks.
Caldy were deserved champions of National Two (North) last season and were promoted to their highest ever level in the RFU league system as a result. In doing so, they have edged ahead of rivals Chester and Macclesfield as Cheshire’s leading National League club. Their Paton Field Ground in West Kirby is perhaps the most beautiful of those in National One.
They have accustomed themselves extremely well to life in the Division and sit in 11th place with five wins and ten defeats to date. Their home form has been rather more successful than on the road but even then they have been competitive throughout the campaign. A run of seven defeats in October and November have been turned around and they have been victorious in three of their last five games including home wins against Hull Ionians (27-26), Old Albanian (21-0) and last Saturday against Esher (15-7).
Before the game in September, Caldy & Fylde had met just eight times over a period of four seasons between 2007-2011. Overall, Fylde have five victories, Caldy four. The last meeting at the Woodlands was in March 2011 when a Fylde squad, including Nick Royle (but excluding Jason Robinson who was injured), won by 55-29. It’s a measure of the recent few years at the Woodlands that no players from that match will represent Fylde on Saturday whilst at least six are still in the Caldy squad this season, including wing/fullback Andrew Soutar, centre Gavin Roberts, props John Parker and Derek Salisbury, and backrowers John Collister and Jesiah (‘JJ’) Dickenson.
This loyalty and longevity of such players to the Club helps to explain their success and solidity. They had a superb campaign last season and were totally deserved champions of National Two (North). Head Coach is well known North West player and coach Simon Verbickas. They retained the great majority of the players that earned them promotion. Prominent newcomers include lock Nick Gray, very experienced former England Students & England Counties scrum-half Chris Pilgrim (ex-Loughborough Students, Nottingham, Newcastle Falcons & Yorkshire Carnegie), centre Ransford Otutaha (ex-Stourbridge and Broadstreet) and England Counties U’20s prop John Whitaker. Much admired England Counties flanker Nyle Davidson returned to the Club following a season at Macclesfield.
The Caldy squad may well include three former Fylde players. The most famous and somewhat of Woodlands legend is record try scorer Nick Royle who spent six highly successful seasons in claret and gold. The former England 7s, England Counties and Lancashire flyer leads the Caldy try ranking with eight to date. Lock forward Nick Gray (a student at Liverpool University) had two seasons with Fylde before joining Caldy this season. Centre or wing Tommy Banks is a former Kirkham Grammar student who has had two brief spells at Fylde.
Other influential players include, in particular, playmaking Cheshire County fly-half Rhys Hayes (formerly with Chester RFC), durable lock Tom Sanders and mobile hooker Ted Stagg.
Apart from Royle with 8, other leading try scorers are Gavin Roberts (7), Rhys Hayes (5) and JJ Dickenson (5). Top point scorer overall is Roberts with 106.
The Caldy squad is:
15 Gavin Roberts; 14 Nick Royle, 13 James Otutaha, 12 Delwyn Jones, 11 Tommy Banks; 10 Rhys Hayes, 9 Ben Jones; 1 Jack Parker, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Derek Salisbury, 4 Tom Sanders, 5 Nick Gray, 6 Harrison Crowe, 7 Nyle Davidson, 8 Jack Collister.
16 John Whittaker, 17 Oliver Hearn, 18 Stuart Cross, 19 John Weir, 20 Luke Hibberd.
Fylde make two changes in their starting line-up from that which lost at Loughborough last Saturday. Ben Gregory returns to the hooker’s berth whilst Harlan Corrie is back at blindside flanker. There are two Sale Sharks dual registered players amongst the replacements – prop Jake Pope and hooker/flanker Curtis Langdon who makes his third appearance for the Club. The backline is unchanged.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Luke Fowden, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Alex Dolly, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Dan Richardson, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Will Hopwood, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Jake Pope, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Curtis Langdon, 19 Ben Vernon, 20 Greg Smith.
Match Officials: Referee: Dr Jonathan Cook; AR1 TBC, AR2 David Lodge.