RUGBY ROUND-UP: Two up, two down.
No, not a local estate agent’s description of an over-priced house on a busy Croydon street, but the fate of the local rugby clubs in the season that has all-but-finished, with two enjoying promotion campaigns, while two of the bigger clubs both endured pretty miserable terms.
The fate of Warlingham, the area’s highest ranked club, was all but decided within the first two months of a season which saw them endure 22 defeats in their 22 games, and a points deduction as well to heap further misery on them. They drop out of London and South-east Div 2 level for the first time in eight years.
The club’s final fixture, a 27-43 defeat to Old Tonbridgians at Hamsey Green last Saturday, was more of an even contest than some recent matches, and offers Warlingham’s recently appointed director of rugby, Nick Warren, something to build upon over the summer, when he will be busy recruiting and preparing a tough pre-season training regime.
Next term, Warlingham might just find themselves in the same division with Old Whitgiftians, who now face a play-off to secure promotion from Surrey 1 after finishing runners-up in that league.
While they hung on to second spot in a division which included three other local rival clubs – Old Mid-Whitgiftians, Purley-John Fisher and Chipstead – Old Whits finished a long way behind champions Old Emanuel.
Old Whits’ progress stalled for the last month of the season seeing them lose their last three fixtures, including suffering the 29-24 reverse in the derby match against Chipstead last Saturday.
Old Whitgiftians’ last league win, in fact, was way back on March 11, when they squeezed past the already-relegated PJF 38-32 at Croham Manor Road. So they, too, will be looking to strengthen their squad ahead of the new season, although England internationals Elliot Daly and Marland Yarde may not be available too often…
Purley-John Fisher, after being relegated 12 months ago are on their way down once again. After a promising start, they struggled to overcome the handicap of penalty points carried over from the previous season, and despite winning seven league games, they ended up 11th and bottom of the league – the 68-5 drumming they suffered at the hands of Old Emanuel last Saturday will have hurt, especially after such an encouraging 30-12 win over Old Wimbledonians the previous week.
MidWives and Chipstead ended up comfortably in mid-table, which means that they can prepare for matches next season against promoted Old Walcountians, winners of 15 of their 18 league games this season to finish Surrey 2 in second place, just a single league point behind champions Old Blues.
Their 17-25 win at Frant Road a fortnight ago against Streatham and Croydon ensured their return to Surrey 1. Streatham-Croydon ended the season in fifth place in the table, a good consolidation after being promoted last year.
And in Surrey 3, Croydon – the team which went two whole years without a win – really do appear to have found their feet, finishing off their fixtures with a rousing 85-0 demolition of Reigate. It was Croydon’s seventh win of a solid season.
The area’s schoolboy rugby at senior, under-18, level was all but over by November, when Whitgift, the side which progressed furthest, lost 10-8 to Felsted in the last 16 of the NatWest Schools’ Cup.
The next generation from the South Croydon school got all the way to the semi-finals of the NatWest Cup last month, only to lose 36-5 to Wellington College. It was just the second defeat suffered by the side all season, their previous loss having come all the way back in September, to… Wellington College.
There are some interesting developments at other schools, such as Riddlesdown, which is newer to rugby and has far fewer resources available. This month, their under-16s won the Surrey Cup final, beating Heathside School. Their coaches’ hashtag on the team photo said it all:
And the season isn’t quite over yet, with Easter weekend being the traditional wrap up of the county development under-21s competitions.
At Wimbledon last night, Old Walcountians’ under-21s side won a tense Surrey Shield semi-final with a penalty kick slotted by George Charnock in extra time, after the hosts had dragged themselves back from 12-0 down in the first half to 15-15 at full-time.
Walcs now play Guildford in the final at Dorking at noon on bank holiday Monday.
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