“May the best team win” – that’s Fylde head coach Warren Spragg’s take on a massive weekend of National Two North rugby and of the whole thrilling title race.
Fylde’s 38-7 win at Peterborough Lions last weekend, when only one other match in the division beat the cold snap, lifted Spragg’s side level with leaders Hull Ionians, whom they visit next weekend.
First comes a home clash with Hinckley tomorrow, when Hull head to third-placed Chester. And Huddersfield are only four points off the pace in fourth, with at least one game in hand on all the teams above them.
Hinckley in sixth will believe they are part of the title race if they can complete a double over Fylde tomorrow, especially as the top four must all play each other over the next two months.
But, with nine games to play, Spragg is not looking beyond tomorrow’s Leicestershire opponents and told The Gazette: “Hinckley beat us down there (16-5). They have had some shaky results lately (winning only two of their last six), which surprises me. They are a good all-round side, with a big pack and tall, athletic backs. But what matters most is that we get our game right.”
Fylde will again be without prop Elliot Horner but expect to be boosted by the return of Jacob Connor, the evergreen Chris Briers and dual-registered front-rower Bevan Rodd, who has not kept his place in the England Under-20 side to face France at Exeter tomorrow.
Top tryscorer Tom Carleton is raring to go after being forced off with an ankle injury at Peterborough.
“Tom scored his try, then wanted a sit down,” joked Spragg. “He rolled his ankle but was in good spirits on the bus home and he’s fine.”
Fylde have played more games than their top-four rivals but won’t have to worry about ring-rustiness tomorrow after the other title contenders were frozen out last Saturday.
Spragg added: “We did what we had to last Saturday – we got the five points we needed and haven’t lost anyone to injury.
“With all respect to Peterborough, they are struggling and didn’t offer much attacking threat (Fylde came within 10 minutes of keeping them pointless).
“They were quite rugged and difficult to break down, but we know we will have to improve and be on our toes in the next two games.”
And the Fylde boss will keep an eye on Chester v Hull with more than a passing interest.
“A 0-0 draw there would do me,” he said. “I honestly can’t pick a winner. The better team will win and that’s the story of this season.
“The best team will finish on top and there are quite a few teams who will believe it can be them.”