Rugby union: Longton on front foot after signing Denstone starlet
LONGTON have bolstered their front row with the signing of former Midlands under-20s prop Joe Newton-Taylor.
The highly-rated 21-year-old, from Denstone, signed for the National Three Midlands side this week ready to make his debut against Syston on Saturday.
Longton's director of rugby, Tony Wheat, is expecting the powerful youngster to make an immediate impact after receiving a glowing report from player-coach Craig Wilson.
Wheat said: "Craig coached Joe at Staffordshire and Midlands under-20s and says he's dynamic, strong and will add to our options in the front row.
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"He's also at a great age, and should fit straight in."
Newton-Taylor came through the youth teams at Leek and made his senior breakthrough in Midlands Two in 2010.
He trained with Championship side Moseley and Premiership pretenders Worcester Warriors before signing for Birmingham and Solihull in National Two this season.
Worcester have been monitoring his progress, but a knee injury meant his game time has been restricted.
Wheat said: "He started a few matches, but missed a bit when he was injured and has been frustrated to be on the replacements bench over the last few weeks.
"He rang Craig up to see if there were any opportunities for more time and came up to sign for us on Tuesday evening after Solihull agreed to release him."
Syston could leapfrog Longton if they win at Trentham Fields this weekend, and Wheat is expecting them to arrive in the Potteries with all guns blazing.
For Longton, it will be a first taste of action for three weeks and a chance to blow off some cobwebs.
Wheat said: "It's been slightly frustrating not to play, but it's given us a chance to freshen up a little bit and ready to meet the next few weeks with the sort of intensity we'll need. We had a week off with the schedule and a week off with the weather so everyone is raring to go now."
Captain Luke Fowles is hoping to be fit after the enforced break gave him three weeks to rest a strained hamstring.
It means the treatment room is almost empty, apart from long-term lay-off Chris Buck (shoulder).
Syston won the reverse fixture 27-25 during Longton's battle with a sizeable injury list.
Wheat is also hoping to gain revenge for a 17-16 defeat on their own turf last season.
He said: "We had a narrow defeat down there and they beat us up here last year, so we owe them a bit.
"We were poor when we last met, but still should have won. It's a result I look back on thinking it should have been different.
"They seem to go through blocks of results. They lost six or seven on the bounce after beating us and fell from a comfortable position down the table.
"But they've just won two on the bounce, albeit against Mansfield and Derby, and they will have a lot of motivation to make it three against us.
"A win for them will take them above us, a loss and they're looking at a dog fight, so they will be well up for it."