Stowmarket Rugby Club are on course for their most successful ever season as they turn their attention to securing league promotion after winning the Suffolk Chadacre Cup at the weekend.
The London Three Eastern Counties side hosted this season’s cup final against lower-league Mersea Island on Easter Saturday, coming out on top by a 28-12 scoreline.
But, despite the mismatch on paper, with Mersea Island playing a division below in the Essex (Canterbury Jack) League 1A, it was a competitive contest which resulted in six tries being scored.
Stowmarket first-team manager Martin Barnard said it was ‘very pleasing’ to win the cup for the second time in the club’s history, in trying conditions as the rain fell.
He said: “It was a thoroughly enjoyable game, and rewarded by a good crowd to watch. Stowmarket had to work hard to secure a well deserved victory.
“And it was great to win it again, after winning once before about three seasons ago.
“If we can gain promotion as well then this will probably be our most successful season ever.”
The current London Three league leaders —who are already guaranteed a play-off place with two fixtures remaining — were forced to bring their A game against the visitors, who refused to be intimidated and fought all the way until the end.
This was in spite of Stowmarket taking an early lead through veteran winger Nick Faliveno, converted by fullback Dan Garrard, and dominating early possession.
But Mersea came back well, with a fine cross field kick leading to their winger running in unopposed for an unconverted try.
The best period of the game followed, with Mersea on the attack in the Stowmarket half while the home side defended with organisation to keep them out.
Eventually Stowmarket were able to attack and a powerful run saw winger Scott Woolnough force his way over for the side’s second score.
They went in at the break with Stowmarket a try ahead in a reasonable reflection of the first half.
The second half saw the home side applying the majority of pressure and having a lot of territorial advantage, but Mersea were unlucky to concede Stow’s third try.
A heavy tackle sent the Stowmarket attacker and ball backwards, only for it to land in the arms of second row Jordan Robinson, who simply had to catch and make two yards before going over the try line.
By this time Stowmarket had used most of their bench and generally used their interchanges better to continue to control the game, with Garrard kicking a penalty to further extend the home side’s lead.
Mersea once again rallied and, from a quick penalty tap near the post, were able to score almost unopposed as the defence failed to react.
But Stowmarket got to the 22 almost immediately from the restart and were quickly awarded a penalty, well taken by Garrard.
With the last play of the game called, Stowmarket scored a final converted try by captain and scrum-half Joe Fifield to wrap up the win.
The side are next in action on Saturday, at home to Thetford (3pm), in a local derby Barnard said the side are looking forward to.
He said: “Their head coach is a former Stow head coach, which adds a little extra local spice to the meeting.
“Our main focus has always been the league this year and we are now so close.
“Winning the cup is definitely good for morale but is the icing on the cake of our league push.
“We need to win our last two games, and get bonus points to achieve it.”