How would Fylde fare in National 1 after promotion ten years ago? Here’s how they began an excellent first season back at level 3, taking on Jersey at the Woodlands in late August 2011.
Fylde, led by Head Coach Mark Nelson and Consultant Brian Ashton, had a phenomenally successful 2010-11 season in National Two (North) and finished as outstanding champions. They prepared for the 2011-12 season in National One with a few judiciously signed newcomers such as Chris Briers (Doncaster), Alex Loney (Rotherham Titans), Steve Depledge (Otley), Evan Stewart (Macclesfield), Gareth Rawlings (Longton) and Simon Griffiths (Liverpool SH) and one or two fine players such as Ollie Viney joined a little later in the campaign. How would they compete in a tough division and a step up in the quality of rugby?
Their first game on 27th August was against similarly newly promoted Jersey RFC. With aggressive recruitment, strong corporate sponsorship and, for this level of rugby, huge crowds (sometimes over 4,000), the Islanders were one of the promotion favourites. The season turned out to be a brief staging post for them as they eased to the championship of the division by the end of April (2012) and jumped up to level two in the RFU hierarchy, the Championship, where they’ve been ever since.
Back to August 2011. Fylde expected a fierce examination of their N1 credentials on a lovely, sunny day at the Woodlands. And so it proved in a close, very exciting spectacle for a decnt sized home crowd. Jersey notched an early try but Fylde came back strongly with a brace from arch try scorer Nick Royle. A 24-8 lead was never sufficient to guarantee a victory and the visitors hit back with their 2nd try. Royle’s chip ahead in the 55th minute ended with scrum-half Steve Depledge winning the foot race to claim what turned out to be the winning try on his club debut. Jersey came strongly once more and scored two further tries but Fylde held out for an exciting 29-27 win.
Fylde were in the top six clubs in National One right through the season and despite falling away somewhat in the last six weeks finished a very impressive 4th in the division. This was some accomplishment after eight seasons in National Two (North). The excellent squad skippered by Sam Beaumont wasn’t, perhaps, quite as strong as it became in 2012-13 & 2013-14 but nevertheless impressed many spectators at away games all over England as well as the Woodlands faithful who lapped it up. Heady days indeed, and a suitable way for highly influential Chairman, Michael Brennand, to bow out on a high. His son Ollie once more finished as top try scorer with 27, closely followed by Nick Royle on 25 – together they were the most dangerous wing combination in the division.
Photos courtesy of Chris Farrow.
Footnote: It’s saluatory to see the strong hand of Northern clubs in National One around the 2011-14 period, all of whom slipped subsequently down a division or two:
Otley, Wharfedale, Sedgley, Blaydon, Tynedale, Macclesfield, Hull Ionians, Fylde, Caldy …
Only Caldy have just clambered back whilst Darlington Mowden Park have maintained their status impressively over the last six seasons.
Fylde 29 Jersey 27: match report
At the end of a rip roaring 80 minutes of entertainment for the big crowd, the difference between the sides was a missed conversion. A fine sunny day and the lush Woodlands pitch were made for running rugby and both teams responded with ambition and width. Both these newcomers to National One have recruited substantially during the pre-season and both played just one pre-season warm-up game. It rather showed as both teams were a little rusty.
Jersey opened in storming fashion. Their powerful frontrow, led by loosehead prop & Welsh international Ben Evans, disrupted Fylde’s first scrummage and they turned the ball over. It was moved right, speedily, and debutant fly-half Ross Broadfoot broke the line to touch down. The usually dead-eye goal kicker Michael Le Bourgeois surprisingly pulled his kick but the visitors had a 5-0 lead and Fylde were rocking on their heels.
After 10 minutes of dominant play by Jersey, Fylde gradually worked their way back into the contest. The man to change the shape of the game was Fylde centre Mike Waywell who had an immense match. From a series of drives 25m out from the visitors line Waywell powered through the defence to drive over the line for a muscular try. Richard Kenyon converted for a 7-5 advantage.
Despite Le Bourgeois putting his side ahead with a penalty on 13 minutes, it was Fylde’s turn to dominate. On 16 minutes a Kenyon penalty regained a lead they were never to lose. But the best was to come in eight minutes running up to half-time with two tries by the arch poacher Nick Royle. The England 7s player is usually on the wing but played at 15 in this match. If his tactical awareness showed some naivety at time, his blistering pace and opportunism justified the selection decision.
On 29 minutes Fylde worked the ball left and found some space along the touchline. Royle chipped over the flat defence and won the race to touch the ball down. Kenyon converted beautifully from out wide. Seven minutes later Fylde were deep in the opposition half and Kenyon went right 20m out from the line. He delayed his pass masterfully as Royle came into the line and streaked through for a superb try. Kenyon converted and Fylde had what looked like a match winning 24-8 at the interval.
Jersey had other ideas and took the initiative early in the 2nd half in impressive style. A missed tackle by a Fylde player, almost the first in the game, contributed to a driving run through the home defence by the impressive Jersey no 8, Nick Trower, and a good try. Le Bourgeois converted easily and reduced the deficit to 24-15.
What proved to be the winning try came on 55 minutes when Fylde attacked down the right again. Royle was worked into space and chipped ahead once again. He was late tackled but as it happened it didn’t matter as debutant scrum-half Depledge won the race to the touchdown. Kenyon missed the conversion but Fylde had a 29-15 lead.
Then came Jersey’s best spell of the game as Fylde took their collective foot off the gas. On 57 minutes excellent visiting centre Donovan Sanders cut right through the home defence to score a lovely try. Fatefully, the conversion was missed. On 65 minutes Jersey attacked down the left and drove over the line with flanker Guy Thompson claiming the try. Le Bourgeois converted well and took his side to within two points of Fylde at 27-29.
Fylde regained control and played out the remaining minutes with fierce tackling and some brave attacking. This was a fine advertisement for National One rugby played out by two committed sides in good spirit.
Timings of scores
Tries: Waywell 10, Royle 29 & 36, Depledge 55. Conversions: Kenyon 11, 30, 37. Penalties: Kenyon 16.
Tries: Broadfoot 4, Trower 47, Sanders 57, Thompson 65. Conversions: Le Bourgeois 48, 66. Penalties: Le Bourgeois 13
STAR MAN: Mike Waywell (Fylde)