THE new year starts with a bang for local rugby union followers on Saturday with derby foes Heath and Old Brodleians clashing at West Vale (2.15).
The pair lie second and sixth respectively in the Yorkshire One table and Heath will start strong favourites, having put together a 10-match winning run while their visitors from Hipperholme lost three league games in a row at the end of 2018.
Dave Harrison’s hosts also won 28-10 at Woodhead earlier in the season and haven’t lost to the Brods since 2015.
The pair will play for the Dave Littlefair Trophy and the clubs’ second teams will also meet at North Dean with a noon kick-off.
Harrison is hoping his players can pick up where they left off last year. “Obviously derby matches are different, with both sides up for the game, but we have continued to train over the holiday period.”
Michael Reynolds comes in at scrum half for Peter Birkett, who has left for a new job in Australia, and influential second row Fergus Marsden may come back into contention, along with Jordan Moana and Dave Skinner after injury.
Harrison said Reynolds was a capable and ready-made replacement for Birkett, having been involved with the team all season.
It is a crucial month for Heath with a second derby, at Old Rishworthians, at the end of the January and games against leaders Moortown and a strong Pontefract side in between.
Ollie Akroyd’s Brods have plenty of capable players but questions to answer after their defeat at Rishworthians in their latest outing.
They missed a chance to restore confidence when the game at home to Hullensians was postponed before Christmas and their first teamers sat out the narrow Boxing Day win over Cleckheaton.
OLD Crossleyans host lowly Keighley in Yorkshire One on Saturday as they look to shake off the cobwebs following a four-week break.
The Broomfield men’s game at Guisborough before Christmas was postponed and club spokesman Howard Cooper said it seemed like an age since the 19-17 win at Bradford Salem on December 8.
“I do think the RFU made a mistake this year with the scheduling of the fixtures as last Saturday, in the middle of the festive season, would have been ideal for a game.
“Earlier in the season we beat Keighley 32-13 at their ground on the all-weather surface, but only pulled away in the final quarter.
“They have shown an improvement in form since then, although their three recent victories have all been at home on the 4G pitch.”
Joel McFarlane plays his last game of this season as he goes travelling overseas. The centre or winger has been one of Crocs’ outstanding signings.
Crocs coach Gareth Greenwood has joined brother Lee at Dewbury Rams RLFC but Cooper said there was no change as far as the Broomfield club was concerned. “Gareth is with us for at least this season.”
Rishworthians open the year with a ‘must win’ battle at the foot of Yorkshire One when they entertain Guisborough at Copley.
The division’s bottom club will be eager for revenge over Rishworthians, who lie two places above them.
The Copley men won the away fixcture 27-24 in September and while the visitors have not won a league game this season they have come close several times and registered 13 bonus points.
Since that victory in the North East, Rishworthians’ injury list has lengthened and several players face late fitness tests. However, record try scorer Anthony Shoesmith is back.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult game against dogged opponents,” said team manager Dan Ingham.
“But after recent good performances, particularly the win over Brods, the belief is back and despite the absence of several players due to injury and unavailability, we’ve got what it takes to win this game.”