Fylde face a tough test when they welcome one of National Two North’s form teams, Hinckley, to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 3pm). The East Midlands club have won seven out of their last eight fixtures and are flying high in 4th place. They have a balanced squad of powerful forwards and clever backs so Fylde will have to be at the top of their game if they are to be victorious. Fylde’s scoring of 114 points in the last two matches will mean little in Saturday’s contest.
Hinckley, in their second season in National Two (North), had a mixed start in the early weeks of this campaign with five defeats in their first seven games. But this was turned around dramatically and they’ve run up 10 wins in the last 13 fixtures. ‘The Hornets’ haven’t lost at home since the 19th October when Fylde put in a fine display to overwhelm them by 7-43, thanks to tries by Tom Carleton (2), Adam Lanigan, Greg Smith, Scott Rawlings and Lex Botha. Greg picked up a personal haul of 18 points. The honours between Fylde & Hinckley were shared last season in two close matches. Hinckley won 16-5 at Leicester Road and Fylde were victorious by 21-8 at the Woodlands.
Hinckley began with a home defeat to league leaders Caldy (13-29) and then a surprising loss at Loughborough Students (41-7). In the recent sequence of games they have notched notable wins at home to Stourbridge (32-3), Sheffield Tigers (53-23), Loughborough (15-9), Hull (19-8) and Sedgley Park (50-15). Their only narrow setbacks were at Tynedale (20-15) and Chester (19-18).
Hinckley is situated 15 miles north of Leicester and the town’s club has gradually worked itself into becoming a major force in Midlands rugby. Once again facing relatively new opposition, we find a club with a longer history than Fylde, having been founded in 1893. Their distinguished alumni include the last dual cricket and rugby international, M J K Smith, and the England & British Lions legend, Dean Richards. After playing in the Midlands divisions for most of the last 25 years, they broke through to the National Leagues in 2010 but quickly dropped back to the Midlands Premier (level 5). A sustained improvement campaign eventually lifted them back to National Two (North) in 2016-17 and they have a taken an upward path, finishing in 9th in their first season and then 5th in 2017-18 and 10th last season.
Their new Director of Rugby is the former All Black, Crusaders and Leicester Tigers fullback/wing, Scott Hamilton. He joined Hinckley in the 2016-17 season after a spell coaching and playing for Coventry in National One following his departure from the Tigers. He is also a registered player and has already appeared in their line-up this season.
Their squad, like most clubs in the National Leagues, is a mixture of local talent who have developed at the Club and players who have joined more recently.
Two of their most interesting players are brothers Ollie and Henry Povoas. With father Simon Povoas, a famous Leicester Tigers former player, his sons have followed on that tradition and are both backrow forwards. Ollie is the most experienced with spells at Leicester Tigers Academy, Coventry, Leicester Lions and originally home club Market Harborough. Henry is out of the same stable and has distinguished himself in recent games including picking up the Man of the Match award in Hinckley’s astonishing 50-15 victory last Saturday over promotion chasing rivals Sedgley Park. Influential backrowers also include skipper Alex Salt and Jamie Skerritt.
Star of the backline is the very experienced fly-half and playmaker Tom Wheatcroft, no stranger to Fylde in their National One days. Wheatcroft has had a distinguished career at Worcester Warriors, Cambridge, five seasons at Ealing Trailfinders, and Coventry. His half-back partner is often the promising Ben Pointon and they orchestrate a dangerous backline featuring centre Mitchell Lamb and wingers Callum Dacey and the principal goal kicker Joe Wilson.
Leading scorer is Joe Wilson with 146 points to date.
Fylde name the same squad that was victorious at Stourbridge:
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 N, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Hal Chapman, 7 Phill Mills, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Matt Ashcroft, 17 Drew Stephenson, 18 Jacob Conner, 19 Ben Vernon, 20 Lex Botha.