By Brandon Reeves
The first challenge of the new year for Huddersfield RU holds a trip to Lancashire and Lightfoot Green to go head-to-head with Preston Grasshoppers, a side they dramatically beat in a roses clash earlier in the season.
On that day while the campaign was still young, Hoppers threw away a 16-point lead at Lockwood Park as Huddersfield stormed to a three try in ten minutes comeback to edge it by a point.
But Preston are a different prospect when on home territory. Six of their seven wins have come at Lightfoot Green and as they’ve managed to turn over sides like Hull Ionians and Fylde, their last five home games have yielded victory.
Head Coach Gareth Lewis says Preston will be out for revenge for his side.
“The second half of the season will be much tougher than the first. It’s important we kick on into the new year but know we face a strong Preston side, particularly at home.
“They will be smarting from the nature of the result at Lockwood Park.
“They have a big abrasive pack and we’ve got to adapt quickly to their artificial grass pitch which should create a good contest.”
And the stats suggest that Saturday should be a tight one on the scoreboard. It’s well-documented that Field have the second-best defence in the league and their largest losing margin this season is seven points happening once, at Otley.
And Field have tended to be tighter on the road, conceding an average of just 18 points per match from their seven away games. Just 132 of the 275 points that have gone against have been away from Lockwood Park.
Coming in to the team this week is Fran Entressengle who was unavailable for the Otley visit, Adam Blades and Lewis Bradley.
Blades and Entressengle come into the front row while vice-captain Bradley returns to his more familiar number 7 shirt.
Ross Thornton started at 7 against Otley, while keeping a starting berth he shifts to blindside in the back row.
The backs are unchanged after their scoring exploits against Otley, Chris Johnson keeps notching points with his boot at fly half, while Lewis Workman off the wing managed to bag a try inside two minutes last time out.
A win for Field will surely keep them in the pack hunting for second-place, with a game in hand too. But Hoppers could see themselves tie level on points with their visitors with a bonus point win.
And all Huddersfield can do at the moment is rely on their own ability to get results since the league is much harder to predict this year than in seasons gone by.
Elsewhere, Otley host Sedgley Park in what looks like the clash of the gameweek, while Hinckley face a tough trip to Wharfedale, Chester know that any slips against Leicester Lions and they’ve got a pack right behind them. And bottom hosts top in Peterborough where Hull visit the Lions.
Huddersfield XV: Tom Hodson, Kian Stewart, Mark Pease, Will Milner, Lewis Workman, Chris Johnson, Jack Maplesden; Harry Whitfield, Fran Entressengle, Adam Blades, Guy Borrowdale, Nick Sharpe, Ross Thornton, Lewis Bradley, Dickie Piper(C)
Replacements: Alex Battye, Liam Parfitt, Matt Dunn, Joe Green, Elliot Knight