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Unbeaten Bury Foxes ready for winner-takes-all play-off against Sutton Coldfield

Invincibility – as well as promotion – will be on the line for Bury St Edmunds Foxes when they go up against Sutton Coldfield at Wellingborough RFC on Sunday (2.45pm).

Like Bury, Sutton Coldfield have an unblemished league record ahead of their play-off match to decide who will be playing in the third tier of women’s rugby next season.

Should they win a place in Women’s Championship Midlands 2, it would continue a rapid rise up the pyramid for the Bury ladies’ side, who are only in their third league season since being formed.

Bury Foxes beat Stanford le Hope 69-0 to win Women's NC East 1 with 2 games to spare. Picture: Stepping Stones Photography (7486626)
Bury Foxes beat Stanford le Hope 69-0 to win Women's NC East 1 with 2 games to spare. Picture: Stepping Stones Photography (7486626)

Team manager Natalie Palmer, who plays in the second row, admits it does not get much bigger for her side, who are looking forward to testing themselves against opposition of similar calibre after a cake walk to the title, only conceding 33 points across 10 games.

“This would put us up with the bigger people, including Premiership side’s second teams, so it is probably the biggest game we have played,” she said.

“They are very similar to us as they have won all their games by similar scorelines to us, so it looks like being a hard-fought match.”

But even if Bury, the Women’s NC East 1 champions who were unable to play their last two matches due to opposition fears about whitewash defeats, lose out to the Women’s NC Midlands 1 runaway victors,
Palmer still hopes the RFU promote them.

She said: “I have contacted the RFU prior to even winning the league as we feel as a team regardless of what happens in the play-off we need to be playing a higher level of rugby.

“It is not fair on teams we play in our league and that is shown by two teams we were meant to play pulling out.

“We will try and get promotion via the play-offs but if we do not win Sunday I have put a case in with the statistics for and against us (going up).”

What is not ideal for the Foxes is not having played a competitive game since February 24, when they thrashed hosting Stanford Le Hope Ladies 69-0, though they did end up playing a friendly the weekend after. In comparison, Sutton Colfield have played on the following two weekends to wrap up their season.

The Foxes’ top try scorer, Robyn Gordon, is unavailable due to a prior commitment, while Laura Stone (broken collarbone), Sammy Rackham (knee) and Lucy Martin (maternity leave) will also be missing from the team sheet, but the latter is due to attend with her newly-born baby.

The side’s sponsors Beyond The Fringe of Woolpit are making the 75-mile journey to the neutral play-off venue in Northamptonshire along with other family supporters.

Palmer said the side, who recently had 12 of their team called up to the Eastern Counties Women’s squad, including recently-appointed England Deaf captain Steph Hanratty, have upped their training sessions from once to twice a week in preparation for the promotion showdown.

“We have been putting in the hard work so hopefully it will pay off,” Palmer added.

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