With two pre-season games under their belts, the senior squad is shaping up for the new season. A Foresters selection – admittedly including a certain Sam Gaudie who was just too good for the contest and with Ben Leacock making a long-awaited return from injury – had a comfortable 36-0 victory over a game Burnley XV on Thursday evening. Resolute defence, in which Tom Mann and Jack Pinder were outstanding, provided the platform for some fine attacking play with Josh Prell and Tom Doherty to the fore. This was followed up on Saturday with a much closer 8-0 victory over Otley at Cross Green. Otley have set their stall out for a quick return to National League rugby and, with players of the calibre of Callum Irvine, captain Brett Mitchell and former Green Luke Cole in their ranks, this was always going to be a tough test. Despite being under pressure for long periods, and with Jack Blakeney-Edwards, new boy Luke Punton and Tom Davidson sharing the scrum-half duties in the absence of a recognised 9, the Greens defence was again outstanding. An early penalty goal then a second-half catch and drive line-out try for back row replacement Jack Pinder were enough to squeeze Otley out as the Greens’ fitness told in the second half and the introduction of fresh young home-grown talent in the likes of Pinder, Omari Kaup-Samuel, Jack Thompson and Brad Viner did nothing to reduce the intensity. This was an excellent all-round performance and the coaches can reflect on a very positive start with no points conceded in the two matches.
In terms of the new joiners to look out for, the focus is again on developing talented young players and providing a step-up to National League rugby for promising players with the right attributes to progress.
Luke Punton is a 20 year old fly half/centre who joins from Sandal (L5) and comes highly recommended by Sandal player-coach Joe Bedford. A product of Woodhouse Grove School (where Joe is in charge of rugby), Luke is described as very well-organised player with a quality kicking game. He settled in well in the spring matches against Harrogate and looked very comfortable against Otley. He will fit well into the squad. He joins his former team-mate, back-row forward Chris Jackson, who has also committed to the club after joining in 2019 and who also had a solid game at Cross Green.
Ben Markey is an aggressive 18 year old flanker who joins from Bradford Salem having impressed in the Yorkshire Rugby Academy over the last season. His coaches at Salem, Neil Spence and Dan Scarborough, are sorry to lose such a talented player but recognise that Ben is ready for a step-up in terms of senior rugby. Ben has made a big impact in training and, although he is currently recovering from a hand infection, will be challenging hard for a place in the 1st XV.
And Rhys Green also joins from Bradford Salem. Rhys is a utility back 5 forward who made his first appearance in the home game against Harrogate and displayed great athleticism both in the line-out and loose play. Rhys went on to make a huge contribution to the victory over Otley with some outstanding work at the breakdown.
Otherwise, the squad is very much as it was when we last played senior rugby, albeit with the addition of Ryan Carlson from Preston Grasshoppers and the return of Adam Howard and Will Davidson. Sadly, owing to a combination of injury, work and cricket, none of these is currently training but we expect them all to make an impact as the season develops. It is likely that some of the 2019 Colts who had made the step up to senior rugby in 2019/20 will be away at university but Rob and the coaches are working hard to encourage them to commit to the club. It is particularly rewarding to see Omari Kaup-Samuel, who played at flanker in that National Colts Cup triumph, back at the club after a season with North Ribblesdale where he has converted to a powerful wing or full-back.
The future is bright – the future is Green!