This trip into the Archives features one of Fylde’s finest performances under the coaching duo of Stuart Connell and Martin Scott. 15 years ago, on 21st January 2006, Fylde welcomed Bradford & Bingley to the Woodlands. The Lancastrians were having a moderate campaign in 2005-6 and sat in 8th place in the 14 team National Two (North) division. The Bees in comparison were flying high with 12 wins (8 successive ones ahead of this game) and just one defeat and were on their way to become outstanding champions by the end of April.
One of the interesting characteristics of National League rugby in this period was the very fast rise, and sometimes fall, of ambitious clubs through the leagues. New Brighton, Bradford & Bingley and neighbours Halifax were good examples in the mid-2000s. The Bees Head Coach at this time was the very experienced Geoff Wappett, formerly Head Coach at Rotherham and in charge of England Youth. He had assembled a very strong squad of domestic talent and strengthened it with a galaxy of quality overseas players, especially from the South Sea Islands and South Africa. The RFU and Home Office regulations on the recruitment of overseas players were considerably tightened a few years later but in 2005-6 clubs were able to play as many as they could afford.
The Bees’ contingent included international wingers Taunaholo Taufahema and Sengili Tuihalamaka, scrum-half Joey Nau, fellow no 9 Joseph Heta, Samoan centre Jonny Leota (who went on to a glittering career in the Premiership with Sale Sharks), South African forwards Barry Jacobsz and Bloues Volschenck. Hooker on this January day was former KGS student and Sale Jet Danny Greenhalgh.
Fylde’s line-up that day included their two overseas players, South African centre Paul Reeves and Kiwi flanker Quentin King and was skippered by fly-half Mike Scott. Apart from being an excellent all round and experienced playmaker, Scott was one of the best goal kickers in the National Leagues, with a success rate of over 80%.
Fylde were undaunted by the reputation of the visitors and tore into them in a purple patch of flowing rugby in the first quarter of the game which left the Bees reeling. Fullback Richard Kenyon struck the first blow with a neat try after just three minutes. Scott converted for a 7-0 lead.
Fylde may not have had the same big names as the Bees but they did have a young winger who proceeded to a superb career in 15s and 7s rugby. Stuart Connell had persuaded Nick Royle to join the Club early in the season and the youngster began a run of seven glorious seasons at the Woodlands, most often in combination with fellow record try scoring winger Oli Brennand. Of course, Royle had a successful spell in the England 7s squad and 15 years later is still scoring tries for fun at National One and Two levels, for the past few seasons at Caldy.
Royle showed his class in the 10th minute when he finished off a fine move to score with ease. Scott added the extras for a 14-0 advantage.
The Bees struggled to get into the game against a fierce Fylde defence but did open their account with a penalty in the 14th minute by fly-half Tom Rhodes. This was a brief interruption in Fylde’s control of territory and possession. Two minutes later an attack down Fylde’s left resulted in a superb try by Paul Green, usually a powerful centre but drafted into the wing berth due to injuries. Once again, Scott converted successfully from wide out and at 21-3 there was clearly a major shock on the cards. The home side’s lead was extended by a Scott penalty in the 21st minute and the teams left the pitch at half-time with Fylde 24-3 up.
The Bees management must have voiced some home truths in the dressing room as they started the second period with much more vigour. They dominated the first 10 minutes, camping inside the Fylde 22 metre line and pouring men into ruck after ruck. Some heroic defence kept them out until the 59th minute when Bees fullback Ben Greaves scored a neat try down the right. Rhodes converted to reduce the deficit to 24-10.
Fylde used their strong bench to resist the Bees’ efforts, with the pack reinforced by prop Tom Lavelle, hooker Alan Holmes and flanker Andrew Atkinson replacing brother Alastair.
In the last minute of the match, Fylde put the icing on the cake when Nick Royle sprinted clear again and scored in the right corner for a bonus point. Mike Scott wasn’t able to add the extras but a final score of 29-10 represented a deserved and superb afternoon’s work.
As the Blackpool Gazette reported: “This was a tactical victory of some proportion and credit has to go to coaches Stuart Connell and Martin Scott. They anticipated the sources of danger from Bradford and the squad closed these down with remorseless tackling.
Coach Stuart Connell said after the game: “I was confident that we could beat the Bees and said so at the sponsors’ lunch before the game. This was a great team effort and there was excellence throughout the squad. But we have to build on this by winning at Cleckheaton next Saturday.”
PS The Bees were duly promoted to National One (level 3 in the RFU hierarchy). They lost virtually all of their overseas players ahead of that season, struggled at the higher level and were relegated at the end of the campaign. They had two more seasons in National Two (North) before dropping out of the National Leagues at the end of the 2009-10 campaign. Since then they’ve played at levels 5, 6 and 7. In the truncated 2019-20 season they finished 9th in North One (East), level 6.
FYLDE: 15 Richard Kenyon; 14 Nick Royle, 13 Mark Evans, 12 Paul Reeves, 11 Paul Green; 10 Mike Scott, 9 Paul Newton (Martin Wallwork 79); 1 Ted Scott (Tom Lavelle 78), 2 Craig McIntyre (Alan Holmes 50), 3 Sam Simpson, 4 Nick King, 5 Alastair Atkinson (Andrew Atkinson 75), 6 Dylan O’Grady, 7 Quentin King, 8 Roger Banks.
BRADFORD & BINGLEY: 15 Ben Greaves; 14 John Simpson, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Phil Greaves (Sengili Tuihalamaka 17), 11 Tim Bennett; 10 Tom Rhodes, 9 Joseph Heta; 1 Daniel Greenhalgh, 2 Peter Scott (Roger Raper 65), 3 Peter Hall, 4 Stephen Burns (Richard Hughes 40), 5 Barry Clark, 6 Ian Judson, 7 Neil Spence, 8 Kern Yates. Non-playing replacement: Alan Bateson.