Lancashire Derby Marks Hoppers Anniversary

Preston's Sean Taylor in action
©Talking Rugby Union
Zavallis-Roebuck and Ashcroft playing for Hutton Grammar School
©Talking Rugby Union

As the second week of National 2 North approaches, Preston Grasshoppers are preparing for their first home game of the season in an all Lancashire clash with Sedgley Park.

Hoppers will be looking to build on their tough away win last weekend against Sheffield Tigers – the only away win of the league. In a difficult, physical encounter with relentless goal-line defending, the Preston side won with a final score of 16-3.

Although a good first result on the road, Hoppers will be the first to admit that they have a lot to improve on before the coming weekend’s difficult fixture with former National 1 side Sedgley Park.

Sedgley, who are tipped by many for promotion this season, had a very impressive start to their National 2 campaign with a 36-0 victory of Caldy.

The Tigers had the best possible start to their season, with a strong defence that was never breached and powerful running handing them the win over the highly-regarded Cheshire side.

As the two sides meet on Saturday in Preston, the game will also mark the forty year anniversary of Grashoppers’s home ground at Lightfoot Green.

It is forty years and two weeks to the ground’s first game, when Hoppers welcomed Vale of Lune. The Ground’s first fixture did not go entirely to plan, as Vale got the better of the home side by twelve points to three.

Forty years on, Hoppers will be looking to make amends and start the new season with a first home win.
The two sides have met a total of fifteen times, with Hoppers well out in front with eleven wins to Sedgley’s four. However, Sedgley have the best of the club’s recent encounters, from a Lancashire Cup tie back in 2000 and was repeated in the league that season and the next. In the following season Hoppers were relegated from National 1, and it is not until now that the teams will both meet for league points once again.

The Lancashire derby will not only bring the two teams back together for the first time in the league for over ten year, but will reunite former teammates who will play against each other for the first time.

Former Hutton Grammar School pupils and Tarleton Rugby teammates Max Ashcroft and Alex Zavallis-Roebuck will be on opposite sides this weekend.

Hutton Grammar School and former Bath prop Ashcroft has recently joined Sedgley Tigers this season; similarly to Roebuck, who returned to Preston over the summer after a stint at Stockport Rugby Club.
Another former Hutton Grammar student, Andrew Napier, is in the Preston side, whilst former Sedgley Park flanker Garth Dew has retired over the summer and returned to his roots at Preston Grasshoppers to undertake a coaching role.

In addition to the game’s Hutton Grammar School connections, Ashcroft, Roebuck and Hoppers fullback Sean Taylor all represented Tarleton Rugby Club at junior level in the under 17s National Cup Final against Harpenden at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium.

The weekend’s Lancashire derby is set to be a thrilling encounter; one not to be missed.

National League Rugby