Warlingham in peril of relegation for being in Surrey

The historic rivals Old Whitgiftians and Old Mid-Whitgiftians meet in a Surrey Shield semi-final at Lime Meadow Avenue tonight. The bar will be open…

RUGBY ROUND-UP: The long-standing order of the Croydon area’s rugby clubs could be about to be turned on its head in a relegation battle that depends less on the clubs’ position in their league tables, and more to do with their geographical location.

It is 12 years since Warlingham climbed out of the county tier of the RFU’s club rugby ladder as Surrey champions, to start spending their Saturday afternoons in the London and South-East regional level of the club game. At one stage, they even had a dabble at the lofty heights of Div 2.

Yet they are under the threat of relegation this season, despite being a comfortable mid-table eighth place among the 12 sides contesting London SW3. That’s all because if two Surrey clubs get promoted at the end of this season, then two Surrey clubs need to drop out of London SW3… and Warlingham are vulnerable to what seems to be a distinctly unfair geographical toss-up.

Warlingham’s cause wasn’t helped when Old Tiffinians (the next Surrey club above them in the table) managed to beat Weybridge Vandals (the lowest ranking Surrey club in the division) on Saturday, extending Tiffinians’ advantage in the league table to eight points from Warlingham.

Warlingham failed to make up ground on Tiffinians when, after being 17-15 down with 15 minutes to go against the league leaders Old Emanuel, they lost 34-15, ending what had been an impressive eight-game winning streak.

Why has a club in mid-table become so at risk to relegation?

The Mighty Warl need a strong finish to their season to insure against relegation

It’s because the blazers at Twickenham seek to have a balance of clubs from different counties in the regional divisions.

The Surrey champions are automatically promoted, along with the champions of Hampshire. Old Whitgiftians, 62-5 winners over Old Wimbledonians on Saturday, have the Surrey league title in their grasp.

Second place looks to be between Old Mid-Whitgiftians and Old Georgians. The runner-up will then play the Hampshire division runner-up in a promotion play-off decider, the winner of which will join Old Whits in going up next season.

With just three league fixtures to be played, Warlingham need to maximise their points at already doomed Basingstoke on the Saturday after Easter (Apr 7), and then somehow summon up wins against Trojans (Apr 14) and Old Cranleighans (Apr 21), both games at Hamsey Green, to give themselves the maximum insurance against the perfidious relegation system.

Mid-Wives’ promotion chances got a dent on Saturday with a 32-26 defeat at Old Freemans. They have a chance to get that result out of their system tonight when they take on their Whitgift rivals in a Surrey Shield semi-final at Lime Meadow Avenue.

In Surrey 2, Purley-John Fisher are in a spot of bother, having failed to turn up for their game at Reeds Weybridge on March 17. The club faces a five-point deduction from their meagre league tally, but they belied that demoralising outcome with a fighting 48-47 loss at Old Wellingtonians last Saturday. Despite their points penalties, seventh-placed PJF ought to be safe in the division at the end of the season.

One place above them is Streatham-Croydon, despite a hefty defeat at Frant Road last weekend. Streatham-Croydon’s next fixture is on April 7, at Purley-John Fisher.

And the bunting is out at Croydon RFC’s Addington Road ground, as they have managed to avoid going the whole season without winning a single league game.

Their hour and 20 minutes of glory (and several hours more in the bar later) came on March 10 when they won 31-17 against Old Glynonians.

Croydon have reverted to type since, losing 50-12 at Merton and being walloped 93-26 to Worth Old Boys at home last Saturday.

Unless Croydon manage to conjure another victory before their last fixture of the season, at home against Horley on April 14, it will mean that in four years they have managed to win just eight games – and seven of those came in one season.

For two seasons, Croydon went without a single victory – yet in one of those win-less years, they still escaped relegation, such is the anomalous way that these things are determined by Twickenham.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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