Fylde welcome old friends and rivals Rosslyn Park to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 15.00) for what promises to be another close and very competitive contest between the clubs. Fixtures between the clubs go back a long way but in the last six seasons in National One, the honours are shaded by Park, 7-5. This included a double over Fylde last season, 34-45 at the Woodlands and 19-36 at the Rock.
Park began this season with an extraordinary 0-58 win at Old Albanian. This suggested another promotion chasing campaign by the Roehampton-based club. Things haven’t gone so well since, with two home defeats (6-25 v Blackheath; 24-31 v Bishop’s Stortford last Saturday) and an away loss (31-17 at Esher). Park are in 11th place in the division, Fylde in 16th and last place after four defeats.
Rosslyn Park was a regular and popular part of Fylde’s fixture list up to fifteen years ago. The famous Surrey club was established in 1879 and has been part of the very fabric of English rugby history since then. The host of blue chip sponsors featuring on their website indicates the prestige of the Club and the resources it commands.
Like Fylde, their fortunes have varied in the past decade as they have moved between levels 3 and 4 in the league system. Before Fylde returned to N1 in 2011, the clubs most recent meeting was in the 2001/2 season.
Park were in National Two (South) at level 4 between 2005 and 2009, in parallel with Fylde in National Two (North). They were pretty much an amateur set-up until a few years ago but now this has changed as they vie with a host of other London-based National League clubs in the hothouse of player recruitment. They were runners up at the end of the 2009/10 season and had an outstanding play-off win at Loughborough Students to earn promotion to National One. In their first season back in that division in 2010/11 they finished in a highly meritorious 7th position, then successively 5th, 4th, 2nd, 2nd, 6th & 6th last season .
Head Coach is Kieran Power and he’s assisted by Andy Houston. As in recent close seasons, Park recruited heavily and announced a roster of 14 new players. These included a couple of former Loughborough Student talents, lock Matt Macpherson and wing Benji Marto.
A much more experienced Loughborough alumnus is the much travelled and admired backrower Mike Macfarlane who returns to the Rock after a season with Ealing Trailfinders. He has yet to appear for Park this season, as has dominating no 8 Hugo Ellis (formerly with Wasps, London Welsh & Newport Gwent Dragons). Former England Counties & Newcastle Falcons Lock Richard Boyle has also been missing through injury and this was compounded last Saturday when skipper and ex-Newport lock Adam Frampton suffered a serious injury and is likely to be on the sidelines for a while.
Other high profile members of the squad include scrum-half Russell Weir (ex-London Scottish & Loughborough Students); former Scotland U’20s centre Harry Leonard (ex-Yorkshire Carnegie & Edinburgh Reivers); accomplished England Counties centre/wing Andrew Henderson (ex-Ealing Trailfinders & Jersey), fullback Henry Robinson (ex-Darlington Mowden Park), lock Paul Spivey (ex-Ealing Trailfinders, London Scottish, Moseley & Hull Ionians) and flanker Josh Ovens (Premiership experience with Bath and Bristol).
The leading points scorer (and goal kicker) after four games is Harry Leonard and his half-back partner Will Crow leads the try scorers with three.
Fylde make two changes in their starting line-up, with prop Jake Pope and back five forward Matt Postlethwaite joining the pack. Amongst the replacements, Ben Vernon and George Brookes return.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Alex Dolly; 1 Jake Pope, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis (c), 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Nick Ashcroft, 6 Matt Postlethwaite, 7 Adam McCarthy, 8 Toby Harrison.
16 Mark Irving, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Ben Vernon, 19 Jamie Brookes, 20 George Brookes.
Referee: Michael Harris; AR1 Brendan Fitxmaurice, AR2 Jason Garrick.