THERE’S derby fever in the air this weekend as Waterloo are set to take on their rivals from the other side of the Mersey, Birkenhead Park.
Jan van Deventer’s Waterloo head into Saturday’s showdown over the water on the back of a home loss to Bradford & Bingley.
A pair of converted tries in the space of two minutes around the hour mark proved pivotal in last Saturday’s encounter in which the Yorkshire visitors prevailed 26-14.
In the only game in National Three North to beat the big freeze, Waterloo enjoyed the better of the early exchanges and moved the scoreboard first via a well-worked unconverted Alix Croft try and a Liam Reeve penalty to lead the clash 8-0.
The Bees hit back before the interval, however, Giles Hetherington scoring a try to which team-mate Gavin Stead tacked on the extras to trail by a single point at the change-around.
In the second period, the Yorkshire side’s superior physicality began to tell and they made the key breakthroughs via two tries from Richard Tafa. Stead converted both as the Bees opened up a 13-point advantage.
Waterloo refused to concede and hit back with two penalties from Reeve but chasing a game always presents opportunities to the opposition and so it proved as Bradford sealed the win with a late try from Hetherington, his second of the contest.
Despite the defeat, Waterloo will have some confidence heading into Saturday’s meeting with Birkenhead Park.
They have already beaten the Upper Park side twice and will be looking to make it three on the trot.
Park, of course, will have other ideas and will be out to avenge the two earlier losses.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s contest, Deventer said: “Birkenhead did not play last week so we go into this game with the momentum in our favour. We have beaten them in the last two meetings, and although we go into the game with confidence we know that it is going to be tough as they will certainly not want to be on the end of three defeats in a row.
“However it is a game we can win.”
For their part, Park will be eager to get back out playing as for the second successive week they were without a match.
Their scheduled contest at Beverley was called of due to the weather but after the previous week’s on-off fiasco, the host side made the decision on the Thursday evening with there being no prospect of the pitch thawing out in time for Saturday.
This Saturday’s match at the Upper Park has a 3pm kick-off time and Park number eight Dave Ibbotson will be hoping to finally register his 200th appearance following the two Beverley postponements.
Park will be anxious to put on a good display against their old rivals following an emphatic home victory for Waterloo at Blundellsands back in October.
Park director of rugby John McNally said: “We just didn’t do ourselves justice at Waterloo and we definitely feel we let ourselves down.
“We know Waterloo are capable of raising their game against us and we have got to match their intensity to turn things round.
“It is a local derby with a huge amount of pride and history at stake but we must dictate terms on our own patch and our training will be geared towards this approach.”
Park enjoy a 10-point cushion above Waterloo in the National Three North table and they have a game in hand as well following Waterloo’s defeat against Bradford & Bingley last week.
McNally continued: “Waterloo are not in particularly good form but we know from experience that form counts for nothing in this particular derby and it will be all about who performs on the day.
“This is our most eagerly awaited match of the season and we are hoping for good support particularly as there is a break in the Six Nations.”