Sheffield RUFC are flying high at the top of the division, with a comfortable eight-point cushion between them and second-placed Ilkley, but determined loosehead prop Tommy Marples has a few scores to settle when his side take on Doncaster’s Wheatley Hills at home tomorrow.
In the reverse fixture last October the blue and whites lost by a narrow 24-22 to their South Yorkshire neighbours. But Sheffield have only lost one game since, whilst Wheatley have lost four including their last fixture against Northern.
Marples, who made his 300th appearance for the club in their last game away match against Alnwick, believes the Abbeydale Park side are much improved since October and believes quality in the backs and a strengthened defence will secure a victory for Sheffield.
“It is a sort of revenge game of such with the added derby type feel to the game and they will have some players on the pitch who used to be at our club,” said the vice-captain.
“We will be going all out for the win and are a much better side now. I’d like to think we can get a really good victoryand keep our amazing home record intact.
“They will be hard to break down because they have very strong forwards but I really think our quality in the backs will show and we need to play to that strength.
Head coach Adam Byron added: “It will certainly be a tricky test but I want everyone up for the game against our local rivals and to see us controlling the action in the Wheatley half from kick-off.
“It’s also crucial that we try and not concede because if the game is very tight we can build on a strong defence and hope our quality in finishing gets us the result.”
On current form Sheffield RUFC are certainly favourites for the game as they lead North One East on 68 points after 17 games, whilst Wheatley Hills are 16 points behind, having fallen from second to fourth after a disappointing run of results including only one win in their last four matches.
However Byron, who has been head coach since last December, has stressed that their South Yorkshire rivals pose a real threat as they proved in their nail-biting 23-22 victory over second placed Percy Park.
“Wheatley may have had some bad form but that’s all the more reason why they will come to us hungry for a win. It’s a grudge match for both teams involved,” said the director of rugby at Birkdale School.
“It wasn’t a fluke that they beat Percy Park and so everyone is aware of what the side can potentially do. They don’t travel very well but this is practically a home game for them.
“We have to be prepared for a very difficult test. We may have a nice cushion at the top but if we throw away points now that will be eaten straight up by other teams in the division.”
But Byron, who has been part of the club since he was 12 years old, believes the break due to cup fixtures last weekend will play to their advantage and has eyes firmly set on winning the title in style this season.
“The Christmas break came at the wrong time for us this year because we had such momentum going into it, however this short little break has sorted the players right out,” said the former backs coach.
“We ironed out any little niggles and are ready to hit the ground running on Saturday. The key will be getting the basics right and building up controlled phases of play.
“I am not taking any notice of other results around us and just want everyone to focus on winning every game, because it is our title to lose now.”
Tommy added: “Of course the club is always looking to the future and our target is to play National League rugby once again but we can’t do that if we don’t focus on all the games left.”
“Promotion is in our sights and we can’t afford to take our eyes off the ball. We will only have ourselves to blame if our hands aren’t on the trophy at the end of the season.”
Sheffield RUFC V Wheatley Hills is scheduled to be our Match of the Day,’ in next week’s Grass Roots.