Toby Trinder will not be available to help Bury St Edmunds mathematically secure their National League Two status tomorrow (3pm) — but with the Saints player on England duty, Gavin Hogg says the club can take great pride in his absence.
The 19-year-old played a bit-part role in the opening few months of the campaign after becoming a guinea pig for a new relationship between Bury and Premiership giants Northampton Saints, with both England Under-18 player Ehren Painter and himself joining on dual registered terms to gain experience of men’s rugby.
But since the turn of the year, prop Trinder’s development, sometimes playing against opponents almost twice his age in the highly demanding front row role, has seen him become one of the first names on the teamsheet each week, and a key player in the Wolfpack’s recent revival.
Bury’s director of rugby Hogg is hopeful of continuing with a reciprocal relationship with Saints next season and beyond and believes Trinder’s progress shows just how it can be successful for both clubs.
“It is fantastic for us and Toby,” he said about the national call-up to the new level, with the former Framlingham College and Eastern Counties representative player having already turned out for England at younger age groups.
“It reflects how much he has developed this season.
“At the start of the season he was getting 15-20 minutes at this level, but he has adapted really quickly and matured to become a 19-year-old playing front row at National League Two level.”
He added: “This is a new partnership for us and demonstrates the part we have played in his development.
“It is something for us to be really proud of.
“Since Christmas he has probably been the first name on the team-sheet.
Three wins at a crunch time of the campaign — culminating in the excellent 29-3 victory in the South West at in-form but lowly Barnstaple on Saturday — has quickly lifted Bury out of the relegation picture.
Indeed, if Hogg’s side stretch that run to four with a bonus point win over Cinderford (6th) tomorrow, in their penultimate home game of the season, it will officially secure their status in the fourth tier of English rugby with three games to go, regardless of results elsewhere.
But Bury’s survival will be ensured — with the RFU confirming to clubs London Welsh’s collapse in the Championship will see only five teams relegated instead of six from National Two with the worst third-from-bottom points tally across both north and south divisions going down — if either Barnes or London Irish Wild Geese fail to secure at least a point.
Barnes, on the same number of points as Wild Geese but with a worse points difference, are due to host third-placed Old Elthamianans, while the London Irish development side have a tough assignement down at fifth-place Redruth.
Reflecting on Saturday’s impressive scoreline down at Barnstaple, Hogg said: “Last Saturday’s performance had elements that were as good as we have been this season, especially in regards to the mental preparation.
“We knew it would be a tough atmosphere to play in and we had stressed the importance of getting off to a good start.
“The defensive aspect was then the most pleasing as we held them off before going on to dominate the game for large periods.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Hogg said he hopes his side can give a similar performance, with their best victories having come on the road this season.
“It (Barnstaple win) has seen us open up a significant gap (in the table) now.
“And it is an opportunity to go out there on Saturday and really show what we are capable of over the next four games and finish on a real positive to be able to take some momentum into next season.”