Stowmarket Rugby Club on the cusp of double promotion-winning seasons
Stowmarket Rugby Club’s chances of back-to-back promotions will have either taken a big hit or a big step forward by the end of this weekend.
The club are in third-place in London 2 North East, despite playing in their first season in the division, having been promoted from London 3 Eastern Counties last summer, and sit on the cusp of securing another advancement.
They beat Saffron Walden (then 4th) 33-28 last time out to close the gap on second-placed Romford & Gidea Park to just three points – helped by Romford’s loss to Norwich (now 4th) – to boost their belief of achieving the ‘incredible’ feat.
And, with Romford due to host top-of-the-table Woodford while Stow travel to mid-table Wanstead (3pm), this Saturday is the perfect opportunity to pull level.
Head coach John Holton said: “They (Wanstead) will be hungry because we played very well against them down here but they felt they didn’t do themselves justice, so it will be a very difficult fixture.
“We’re getting great numbers to training and having excellent sessions; I can’t fault their fitness or commitment, so long may it go on.
“We beat Romford the week before which put us within seven points but it’s all on them really. If they continue winning then it’s just about impossible. We’ll go for bonus point wins throughout and we have a slightly easier run-in than they have, but if we keep on winning with bonus points, we could just manage it.
“We might be able to get to that second place if they lose to Woodford too, and that would mean a play-off to go up again.
“It would be an incredible achievement for us to achieve double promotion but also possibly a little scary; that’s a big jump in a short space of time.
“The team have grown and developed as we have gone up the leagues – most have been youngsters with us that have come through, and that’s really special.
“In the last two years there has been a bit of a golden generation that have come of age and I’ve been lucky to get them at their peak. It’s a very local club with a great atmosphere and they play for each other.”
Stowmarket flew in the first 40 minutes at Chilton Fields on Saturday, securing a four-try bonus point before half-time, for a 28-7 lead.
Leif Bjorsen twice ran clear down the right wing to score – in the 11th and 20th minutes – with Casha Nijhawan in kicking form to add the extras. Jo Fifield again scored under the post, before James Simpson broke through three tackles to secure the bonus point.
At 28-7, the home side were in a strong position at half-time with Dotun Ogunkeyede scoring again in the 45th minute it make it 33-7.
But the visitors fought back, scoring three seven-point scores before the 70th minute to leave a nerve-racking final 10 minutes.
Although the visitors had the momentum, Stowmarket held on.
Holton said: “The word we used before kick off was ‘consistency’ and that’s what we were looking for.
“We have been guilty of letting teams back in and we did that again today and they were extremely capable.
“We let them in for two tries and suddenly they became very confident and started playing against us and we then made some basic errors.
“They used the wind behind them in the second half very well.
“We managed to pull it together in the last 10 minutes and that’s been true of the boys this season, when they need to really dig, they dig deep.
“We’re not defending as well as we did at the beginning of the season and that’s something we need to put right but we’re still scoring great tries.
“The conversions made the difference today.”