Fylde welcome old friends and Lancashire rivals, Sedgley Tigers, to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 15.00). Whilst Fylde have slipped to three successive defeats, Sedgley are on a superb run of seven victories and are the form team in National Two (North). As a consequence of their brilliant demolition of 2nd placed Chester last Saturday, they jumped over Fylde into 4th place in the division. The two clubs have scored more points than any other in N2N (Sedg 833, Fylde 782) and have virtually an identical ‘points difference’. Fylde will no doubt raise their game as they attempt to finish the season on a high note. It should prove great viewing for what is expected to be a large crowd.
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, Mark Goodman and Danny Maher have made many appearances for Fylde. Fylde’s Chris Briers, Greg Smith, Adam Lewis and Olli Parkinson 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 nine 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.
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. Most of this season has seen a talented squad rather under performing in mid-table before this fine recent run in February & March. This series, including high scoring victories against both leading two clubs, has been made up of: Peterborough (a) 19-33; Sheffield Tigers (a) 3-49; Hinckley (h) 31-10; Hull Ionians (a) 27-34; Stourbridge (h) 42-7; South Leicester (a) 10-42 and Chester (h) 45-7.
Their Head Coach is Matt Bebbington, assisted by amongst others their Forwards Coach, former Fylde hooker (and Kirkham Grammar School teacher) Jonny Roddam.
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 some 361 1st XV appearances for the club since 2005. From 2012 to date he’s been accompanied in the Sedgley backline by full back or winger, brother Andrew who has himself run up 197 appearances.
The current half-back partnership is normally the two ex-Fylde favourites, scrum-half Callum McShane and goal kicking fly-half Steve Collins. More recent moves have seen flanker/no 8 Mark Goodman and hooker Danny Maher move from the Woodlands to Park Lane. Maher has had a stellar scoring record in his two seasons with Sedgley, notching 31 tries in 55 matches.
The Tigers pack is traditionally powerful, with notable contributors such as props Max Ashcroft and Ben Black, locks Bob Birtwell and Jimmy Lloyd, and flankers Will Lees and Max Skofic.
Leading scorer is ‘Piggy’ Collins with 186, with Andrew Riley heading the try scoring ranking with 20 and brother Matt on 19.