Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club make the long journey to the south west coast this evening knowing their season hinges on the outcome of 80 tough minutes in front of a vociferous home crowd.
Director of rugby Gavin Hogg agrees that returning to Suffolk with a win from Barnstaple from tomorrow’s encounter (2pm) would secure — even if not mathematically — their place in the fourth tier of English rugby for a third straight season.
But he is also just as aware that a defeat would leave them in a relegation scrap ahead of their four remaining matches.
“As you correctly say, one win is perhaps enough to secure safety,” he said, following a two-week break by the time they kick-off at Barnstaple, known as ‘The Chiefs’.
“The importance of Saturday is the opposition. We are playing Barnstaple who are six points behind us and it is a real opportunity to open up a significant gap.
“But it will be a big, big challenge down there for us as Barnstaple are probably one of the form sides in the league.
“They have been running the top four sides close and only lost to Taunton (5th) with the last kick of the game last weekend.”
A 43-31 success at Barnes last time out means The Wolfpack are 10 points — just two bonus point wins — ahead of the drop zone, which with London Welsh’s financial collapse two leagues above has now been confirmed as reduced from three to two sides.
Eleventh-placed Bury do have the buffer of having three sides between them and the bottom two, though, one of which is Barnstaple — making tomorrow’s clash worth even more.
With a big crowd expected at Pottington Road, Hogg said: “We are certainly looking forward to the challenge and hopefully we can get that important win to make the last four games a bit more easy to enjoy.”
Winger Jaid Wiltshire (knee), who scored a hat-trick in their last game, is definitely ruled out of the trip, while flanker Sean Stapleton was due to undergo a fitness test at training last night.
The versatile Shaq Meyers (groin) is fit again, though, and will take Wiltshire’s place on the wing, while Dave Micklethwaite or Maku Koroiyadi, who are both available again, would be options to replace Stapleton at no7.
Regardless of the outcome of this season, the club’s preparations for next season are well under way with Stapleton, Chris Snelling, new captain Tom Rock, Matt Edison, Sam Bixby, Liam McBride, Matt Selby, Micklethwaite and David Coutts having all agreed deals for 2017/18.
A trio of players recruited during this season, Enzo Comin, Matthew Hall and Louis Whetton, signed up on two-year deals.