Old Brodleians coach Matt Smith reckons Old Brodleians are “massive underdogs” for Saturday’s Woodhead derby against Heath (2.15).
The West Vale side made it four wins in a row against Brods when winning the first league meeting of the season 29-10 at North Dean in October.
Heath outmuscled their visitors on that occasion, in spite of being a couple of forwards missing, and will fancy their chances of doing the same again.
Pack power won the day for Heath in their last game at home to Bradford Salem almost a fortnight ago while Brods have looked very vulnerable in the scrums in recent weeks, having lost props Ben Burnside and Samoan Lalovi Tafua during the season.
Yorkshire Carnegie lock Smith, able to attend last Saturday’s match when the trip to play Cornish Pirates at Penzance was called off, knows the Brods forwards must front up and hope that the Woodhead club’s useful back line can have a major say.
He said: “It’s a big game but hopefully we should have a few players back.”
Prop Bennie Pritchett and Jay Dahlinger are likely to return to the front row while fellow forwards Danny Vento and Bob Sykes may also be back.
Brods will hope No 8 Rob Jennings, who came off at half time in last weekend’s home defeat by Middlesbrough clutching his ribs, is fit to resume.
Smith added: “We know Heath are strong at the set pieces but our lineout is good and hopefully our maul is a strong weapon.”
Heath coach Dave Harrison will be taking nothing for granted tomorrow as the North Dean men look to push their bid for a runners-up finish behind likely champions York.
He said: “League form goes out of the window when these two clubs meet and it is always going to be a battle as both sides look for the win.
“Brods have not had the best of the February fixtures, losing to Middlesbrough and Scarborough, but I have no doubt that they will be upping their game tomorrow and we will be in a tough derby encounter.”
Heath last played at the beginning of the month when their set piece strength yielded a comfortable win at home to Bradford Salem.
The next few weeks see games against teams in the top half of the table which will probably shape their season and the Heath coach has every confidence in his squad.
“It was disappointing not to have a game last week and the weather has not been too kind over the last couple of weeks and we have had to find alternative training venues to keep the lads together.
“However, the break has enabled those players with minor injuries to fully recover and we will be at full strength tomorrow”, added Harrison.
More rugby previews in Friday’s ‘Courier’