By Brandon Reeves
After the cancellation of their pre-christmas clash in December, Wharfedale will roll into town for the rearranged local derby match this Saturday, looking to end Huddersfield’s winning run.
This weekend’s hosts are currently on an eight-game unbeaten run, winning their last seven games, representing their best league run since the National 3 title season.
Head Coach Gareth Lewis knows about the challenge of Saturday’s opponents in derby fixtures. “Wharfedale got an emphatic win against South Leicester last week so will arrive with confidence and they always raise their game for these encounters.
But it is another title that Huddersfield can see in their midst, and they’re looking to get to where Wharfedale once were. Dale were in the third tier of English rugby for the best part of 19 years until relegation in 2016 brought them plummeting down to earth and National League 2 North.
Last season they flirted a bit too closely with relegation for their liking, knowing a Luctonians win on the final day would have left them in the bottom three.
However, they’ve dusted themselves down from last year and have already bettered that season’s points total, virtually securing another season in the league.
Both sides will be acutely aware of what happened the last time these two locked horns on a miserable February afternoon at The Avenue.
Just over a year ago almost to the week, Wharfedale trounced Huddersfield 43-5 to boost their survival bid, something the ‘Field side will be itching to set straight.
This Huddersfield has a different look to it from a year ago, showing a stubborn solidity that makes them the second-best defence in the division thus far.
There also looks to be a nice balance of experience and youth and there are threats all over the pitch.
Gareth Lewis says despite last week’s momentous win can be improved on still.
“It was great to come away with the win at Hinckley last week but we know we can perform better individually and collectively.
‘Field will be without an unavailable Tom Hodson, meaning Lee Smith makes his debut at Full-Back.
With the return of Mark Pease to the midfield, Will Milner will partner the player/coach.
The forward pack is set to remain unchanged, and Elliot Hodgson makes his Lockwood Park return.
Lewis is hoping for a good atmosphere and typically great backing at Lockwood.
“Lockwood Park is a great place to be at the moment, there is a real buzz around the place and I hope the Huddersfield public can really get behind the lads and give them that extra push in the final third of the season they deserve.”
In the cluster of sides going for promotion, only the top three are playing this weekend and as ever, the hot seat of top spot is becoming like a game of musical chairs so any of Huddersfield, Chester or Hull could sit first come Saturday evening.
Chester are facing a testing trip to Hinckley while Hull host South Leicester.