Stowmarket Rugby Club’s head coach would be ‘bitterly disappointed’ if his side can’t make at least a top two spot in the London Three East Counties league with three fixtures remaining.
Martin Barnard was speaking after his team opened up an 11-point gap over third-placed in the league with their 29-7 home defeat of Ely on Saturday.
Although the club lie top, they have been matched every step of the way by second-placed Southwold who share their 76 league points, but lie second due to their games lost record.
With the top team receiving automatic promotion and the second-placed team going in to a play-off against the other second-placed teams across the London 3 regions, Barnard said: “I would be very disappointed if we didn’t make at least the play-offs now.
“We would have to go on a terrible run and lose our last three games and, I think, anyone below us would have to win all of there’s.
“But that’s no reason to think it couldn’t happen.
“The good thing, though, is that it’s in our hands, we’re the ones in front so as long as we do everything we can, we can’t be caught.
“I think we’re going to need to add bonus points as well as wins if we want to leave nothing to chance.
“In fact, I would expect us to finish second if we drop any points, bonus included.
“It won’t be easy, especially as our next team — West Norfolk — have proved a bit of a bogey side for us recently.”
He said it helps to go into it on the back of a successful season so far, winning all but two of their 17 fixtures (one draw, one loss), but said the team would have to be alert on the road on Saturday (3pm).
He added: “It definitely motivates the team even further, especially as we probably slightly overperformed against Ely. We played really well.”
The top-of-the-table clash took place in freezing conditions at Chilton Fields, and was a must win game for Ely if they hoped to stay in the promotion race.
Stowmarket got off to an almost perfect start as winger Scott Woolnough crashed over in the corner, and nearly scored again a couple of minutes later.
However, from an attempted run out by Stowmarket , Ely managed to steal possession to score a well converted try and take the lead.
The game continued to flow from end to end and, with half-time approaching, the home side were pleased to see centre Joe Lancaster go over to give Stowmarket a 12 – 7 lead at the break.
The second half saw Stowmarket playing with the benefit of the conditions, such as having the wind behind them, and that allowed the hosts to dominate territory and possession. They quickly scored a try through Nic Kegge.
Stowmarket then spent a frustrating 20 minutes trying to secure the important fourth try to get a bonus point and, as several opportunities came and went, the vocal home crowd were beginning to get a bit nervous.
But in stepped winger Nick Faliveno as he made a determined run to the corner to score the try and extend the lead to 22-7.
It served to rally Ely and they spent the next 10 minutes threatening the Stowmarket line and were unlucky on more than one occasion not to cross it.
Eventually, however, Stowmarket were again able to break down field and, from the last play of the game, winger Scott Woolnough was again able to go over all but under the posts to the finish the scoring with a converted try.