This game today is my last rugby of 2019. I go to away games rarely, these days, though I would have liked to return to God’s Own Country next Saturday. However, by the time our game kicks off at Wharfedale, I will be an hour into my flight to Johannesburg.
I will spend Christmas Day at a safari park and, following that, I am hoping to see our cricketers succeed where the England rugby team failed. One thing for sure, I will not be talking much rugby with the locals. “Whatever you do, don’t mention the World Cup.”
So it’s goodbye from me for the festive season, and best wishes to both my readers. I will also miss the home game against Huddersfield on January 4th; I will be in Cape Town. Doubtless, the Club will bring a substitute diarist off the bench.
For my own last Diary of the year, I want to say thank you to the players of the Sedgley 1st XV who entertained me so royally throughout 2019. Supporters will remember that we had a sticky start to the 2018/19 season, and were perhaps looking down the table, rather than up, during the middle part of the campaign.
We actually began the 2019 New Year with a narrow defeat, 28-26 at Otley, but we had satisfying wins against long-time rivals Hoppers and Macclesfield. Then we lost two home games in succession, to Leicester Lions and to Tynedale. Of course we lost to Tynedale; we always do, and have done so again already this season. Tynedale must beat Sedgley Park – it’s in the Laws of the Game somewhere, I think.
However, from that low point in early February, our fortunes changed. Our lads ended the season with nine wins in succession, playing some thrilling rugby along the way. Highlights would have included a 34-27 win at Hull Ionians, which frightened them but didn’t prevent their eventual promotion; the 42-7 demolition of Stourbridge; and a similar 45-7 result against Chester, who were themselves pushing strongly for the title following Ionians’ untimely slip-up.
Perhaps best of all was the 28-12 win at Fylde, and we ended with a 22-17 win against the very good Huddersfield team whom we had beaten by a similar margin on the opening Saturday.
I think this sequence of results had us all eager for the new season and, so far, it has gone well enough. The defeat to Tynedale put me in mind of a game of cricket I played perhaps forty or fifty years ago. Bowling for Prestwich that day was one Bob Hinchliffe, who will probably be here today. He usually is. The batsman he had just defeated said something on the lines of, “I always fail against you. Prestwich are my bogey team.”
To which Bob replied, “You’re not good enough to have a bogey team!” He could be sharp, our Bobby. I wonder if they have a similar view of Sedgley up in the hills of distant Corbridge. “How do that lot ever manage to win a game of rugby?”
Anyway, this season so far we have lost at home to Tynedale, and we went down at Loughborough; no disgrace there. Last Saturday saw us travel to Fylde, hoping to repeat the heroics of last season. It wasn’t to be, though a cigarette paper hardly separated the teams, in the words of the Fylde match report. We approach the halfway point with ten wins – many of them close affairs – to offset the three defeats. I love this league.
Elsewhere, at the level above, two promoted teams look certain to yo-yo down again; Canterbury and Hull Ionians. The third club in the relegation zone is Rotherham. Years ago, before leagues, Rotherham was a bit of a prize on the Sedgley Park fixture list, in the days when Lancashire clubs were frightened to play us.
I actually played my second last game of rugby there, for Sedgley 3rd XV, the circumstances being that without me we would have been a player short, and I had kit with me because I had been refereeing that morning. Better to be only half a player short. We were well beaten, but I did provide the pass for our only try. All Phil Rutter had to do was beat a couple of men and run fifty metres. I reckon that was in 1981, or thereabouts.
It will be good to play Rotherham again. If it happens. See y’all in 2020.
CHAIRMAN’S NOTE: Dave will be away for the Huddersfield game on 4th January, so if any budding writers would like to do a piece for that program, please let me know.