Fylde welcome old friends and Lancashire rivals, Sedgley Tigers, to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 15.00) for what promises to be a top quality shop window for National Two rugby with a 2nd v 3rd clash. They are currently Lancashire’s highest ranked clubs in the RFU league system.
‘Sedge’ have had an excellent first half of the season, winning ten games and with just two setbacks – at home to Tynedale (7-12) and at Loughborough (23-18). Like Fylde, their away form has been excellent, winning six on the road with that solitary slip up at Loughborough to spoil the sequence. This is a squad that battles to the end of games and has come out as winners in very tight matches – Wharfedale (17-14), Stourbridge (25-28), Hinckley (34-29), Chester (24-28), Hull (24-27) and finally last Saturday at Sheffield Tigers (19-29). Fylde will have to put in a big, tactically astute effort to come out on top.
The two clubs have a close relationship built on mutual respect and in the context of their joint commitment to Lancashire county rugby. A number of players in the current squads have played for both clubs. Sedgley’s Steve Collins, Callum McShane and Mark Goodman have made many appearances for Fylde. Fylde’s Chris Briers, Greg Smith, Adam Lewis, Olli Parkinson and most recently Hallam Chapman, have spent seasons at Park Lane. Many of the other players know each other very well from Lancashire U’20s and senior squad duties.
Despite this close relationship, there have only been ten previous league games between the two clubs. These fixtures began in 2001 and the first four games up to 2003 were all won by Sedgley. The clubs then went their different ways, with Sedgley eventually elevated to the Championship (level 2) between 2004 – 2009 as Fylde slipped to level 4. Sedgley’s relegation to National One, and Fylde’s promotion to that division in 2011, brought the clubs together again in the period 2011 – 2013. The four games in this sequence were all won by Fylde and this was extended by a tense 14-22 win at Park Lane in disgustingly wet and cold conditions in December 2018. Sedge got their revenge with a clear 12-28 win at the Woodlands in April this year.
The rise of the Tigers from the Northern regional leagues to the heights of the Championship where they survived for five heady seasons was a kind of fairy tale. Quality recruitment and coaching plus astute management off the field was the basis of this success. They achieved this without over stretching their financial resources, no mean achievement for a club which struggled to attract big crowds in football dominated Manchester.
The Tigers have been pushing for promotion from National Two (North) in the last five seasons, twice finishing runners up yet losing the respective play-off games. They were 3rd at the end of last season.
Their Head Coach is another former Fylde favourite, Scott Barrow, who took over the reigns for 2019-20 from Matt Bebbington. Scott joined Fylde for the 2012-13 season after a highly distinguished career with St Helens RL, Worcester, Glasgow Warriors and Yorkshire Carnegie, and made 38 appearances in the claret & gold before retiring as a player at the end of the 2013-14 campaign.
The Sedgley squad is characterised by loyalty and a deep commitment to the Club. This is summed up by the extraordinary service provided by, for instance, the so called ‘Sedgley Truck, Matt Riley. The powerful centre has made almost 370 1st XV appearances for the club since 2005. From 2012 to last season he was accompanied in the Sedgley backline by full back or winger, brother Andrew who himself ran up almost 200 appearances.
The current half-back partnership is normally the two ex-Fylde favourites, scrum-half Callum McShane and the mercurial and evergreen goal kicking fly-half Steve Collins. More recent moves have seen local Fylde resident (who is a RFU Community Coach) and former flanker/no 8 at the Woodlands, Mark Goodman, become a first choice selection.
The Tigers pack is traditionally powerful, with notable contributors such as props Max Ashcroft and Ben Black, the outstanding lock Bob Birtwell who has been partnering Connor James in the 2nd row, and flanker Will Lees and no 8, Tom Ailes who moved to Park Lane this summer from Sale FC.
The dangerous backline includes fullback Leon Simpson, speedy wingers Jamie Harrison and Adam Cheshire and major young talent, centre Ollie Glasse, who shares the goal kicking responsibilities with fly-half ‘Piggy’ Collins. Leading points scorer is Steve Collins with 76.
Fylde make two changes in their squad from that which won at Otley with the return of Sale Sharks dual registered backs Tom Roebuck and Joe Carpenter.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Scott Rawlings, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Adam Lanigan; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Ben Vernon, 7 Ben O’Ryan, 8 Jacob Conner.
16 Alex Loney, 17 Matt Ashcroft, 18 Jonny Wild, 19 Chris Briers, 20 Joe Carpenter.