Fylde’s visitors on Saturday are the outstanding leaders of National Two (North), Caldy, in a meeting of the top two clubs in the division (ko 3pm). The qualities of both sides should guarantee a fine advertiement for National League rugby.
Of 72 clubs making up the Premiership, the Championship and the three National Leagues, only two clubs remain with a 100% record for the season so far – Newcastle Falcons (12 out of 12) and Caldy (21 from 21). The magnitude of Caldy’s achievement is highlighted by the margin of most of their victories. They have scored an average of 38 points per game and conceded an average of 12.
Caldy and Fylde have by far the best attacking and defensive records in the division and are worthy opponents in such an important game. Fylde have scored 104 tries in their 22 matches, Caldy 113 in 22 games.
Only Loughborough Students, Fylde and Wharfedale have finished games within 7 points of the Wirral club. Of these, Wharfedale really threatened their record, drawing level at 11-all in the 2nd half before conceding a driving maul try late on.
As with all Caldy’s games, their big and powerful pack has provided the unmatchable foundation for their clever backs. When Fylde visited Paton Field in early November, the home pack caused major problems in the scrummages and from driving mauls, and these were the principal reasons for the 24-17 victory.
If Fylde are to threaten the visitors then their pack will have to front up in the most intense, error free and disciplined fashion. If the home forwards can more or less match the visitors then the Fylde backs can cause serious damage, as they have shown against all clubs throughout the season.
The bragging rights between the clubs are just shaded by Caldy, with six wins compared with Fylde’s five. The clubs were both in National One in 2017-18 and Caldy outplayed Fylde home and away with a 37-19 victory at Paton Field and 9-34 at the Woodlands.
That was Caldy’s first season at the elevated status of Level 3 and they did well then. Last season reality caught up with them and they were very unfortunately relegated on the last day of the campaign, finishing in 14th place.
Their Paton Field Ground in West Kirby is perhaps the most beautiful of those in N2N other than Wharfedale’s.
Before the games in 2017-18, in March 2011 a Fylde squad, including Nick Royle (but excluding Jason Robinson who was injured), won by 55-29. Royle made 143 appearances for Fylde scoring an extraordinary 152 tries in the process. He joined Caldy in 2014 and has made around 140 1st XV appearances and scored 127 tries for the Cheshire club. This extraordinary strike record must surely be unmatched in the National Leagues.
Under Director of Rugby Gareth Davies and new Head Coach Matt Cairns, Caldy have maintained a very stable squad, strong in both their forwards and backline. Players such as centre Gavin Roberts, tough props John Parker and Derek Salisbury, and backrowers John Collister and Jesiah (‘JJ’) Dickenson were in the line-up v Fylde back in 2010-11.
This loyalty and longevity of such players to the Club helps to explain their success and solidity. In the pack, England Counties U’20s prop John Whitaker joins Parker and Salisbury. Much admired England Counties flanker Nyle Davidson is an influential player and is joined by the return to the Club following a few seasons at Sale FC by backrower Adam Aigbokhae.
Other influential players include, in particular, playmaking Cheshire County fullback or fly-half Rhys Hayes (formerly with Chester RFC), fly-half Lewis Barker (ex-Loughborough, Rugby Lions, Coventry and most recently Macclefield), prolific wing Ben Jones, lock Tom Sanders and hooker Ted Stagg.
Caldy’s leading scorer is Gavin Roberts with 210 points, the same number as Greg Smith. Nick Royle leads the try roster with 20 (one less than Tom Carleton), with Ben Jones on 14.
Fylde make two changes in their starting line-up. In the pack, Nick Ashcroft replaces injured Olli Parkinson, and Chris Briers returns at centre. Matt Garrod joins the replacements.
15 Connor Wilkinson; 14 Tom Carleton, 13 Chris Briers, 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 Jacob Conner, 6 Ben Vernon, 7 Phill Mills, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Matt Ashcroft, 17 Drew Stephenson, 18 Matt Garrod, 19 Hal Chapman, 20 Lex Botha.