THE LONG ROAD
It has taken 32 years to arrive at theplay-off match, a historic signpost on the long road from 1987 when league rugby was introduced in England. In that time Canterbury have risen from the depths of Kent Division 2, won seven promotions and enjoyed multiple Kent Cup successes. Now that steep climb has culminated in the most significant game since the club was a founded 90 years ago.
It is echoed by our opponents, Chester, who like us have reached the highest point in their history and are part of a perfect finale to an outstanding season for both clubs. Canterbury have the advantage of a home tie by virtue of a slightly better playing record but in a game like this a pitch is pitch, wherever it is situated, and it becomes a very level playing field once the whistle goes.
We have had to hold off some tough opposition to make the play-off, reflected in the final league table which puts us just one point ahead of Kent rivals Tonbridge Juddians. They have ended with one more win that Canterbury but a crucial difference of six bonus points has given us the advantage. Our free scoring brought plenty of try bonuses but when we analyze the season it will be places like Taunton, Redruth, Judds and Dings Crusaders that will be etched in the memory. We took a losing bonus point in all four of those away games and they have been precious. Then only team to deny us and beat us twice have been champions Rams and they showed their class in last week’s game. There was nothing riding on the result which made selection, ahead of the play-off, a tricky balancing act. We expect have a full squad that is fit and firing.
As the chance of the play-off spot became more and more of a reality as the season progressed I was motivated by the thought of a big day for the club, either a great day out up north or a memorable occasion hosted by us. Playing in such a large league as ours means no room for any other meaningful competition, so it’s great to have a match that has a different almost cup final feel to it. This week, however, it’s all been about preparing to get the result we want. I have often used this programme column to thank the various supporters who make this club so fantastic. Today is no exception and I want to take this final chance to thank all the players and staff within the group for such a wonderful and memorable season. We have spoken in the week about how the 20 lads picked today are just seeing home the work of so many since we first hit pre-season way back in July. In particular, I’d like to single out Andy Rogers and John Mitchell for the tireless, and often frustrating, voluntary work they do to keep all the logistics running smoothly. John is taking a well-earned break at the end of the season and we wish him and Jacky all the best for their long planned travels.Enjoy the summer everyone and see you next season.
Andy Pratt, Head of Rugby
Things you should know about the county town of Cheshire
The city was founded as a fort by the Romans in AD79 and was known as Deva. It was the scene of battles between the warring Welsh, from nearby North Wales, and the Saxons. So nothing much has changed there in rugby terms.
Situated on the River Dee, Chester became a major trading port until the power of neighbouring Liverpool overtook it.
In Georgian and Victorian times it was seen as a place of escape from the industrial cities of Manchester and Liverpool and, like Canterbury, Tourists flock to the city today which is the best in the North West
Chester has two miles of the most complete Roman city walls in Britain; a unique area of medieval shops – two tier buildings above street level; a racecourse, The Roodee, close to the heart of the city; a cathedral, a university, a great zoo and a Roman amphitheatre. It has a population of 118,000, the largest in the county.
Canterbury’s first team manager, Andy Rogers, played for Chester in 1993. Is it co-incidence the club has gone from strength to since he left?
A great performance by our Pilgrims side saw them lift the Kent Plate in last Sunday’s final against Westcombe Park. They beat the London Division One club’s first team 39-31 to round of a good season in which they finished runners-up in Invicta Division One despite scoring a load of points and having the most wins. Why? We will explain in the bar. The victory is tribute to the work of coaches Alex Veale and Steve Oram and the determination of manager John Mitchell to get a team on the park what ever the difficulties. Fist team calls, injuries and availabilities saw a huge throughput of players but, unlike some other clubs, Pilgrims have fulfilled their obligations. Second team rugby is still a mess which the RFU have failed to sort out but its value as a pathway to the senior squad is important at Canterbury
Is the rugby season at The Marine Travel Ground all over? No it’s not. The Spifire Sevens are with us on Saturday, May18th when local sides come to the festival. It’s a real opportunity to see old friends from all over East Kent.
Confirmed teams include Ashford, Belsize Park, Canterbury, Canterbury Christ Church University, Dover, Faversham, University of Kent and Young Pretenders RFC.
BBQ, band (Dune Acoustic) and bar open. It a starts at mid-day.
JOIN THE FORCE
The NatWest RugbyForce weekend is back on June 22nd and 23rd. Last year we had an amazing group of volunteers who helped clean, paint and plant around the club ready for the new season. This year we need your help again. Can you and the family give a few hours or maybe the whole weekend to help us? If so, visit the Rugby Force page on the club web site: cantrugby.co.uk/natwest-rugbyf
If you have a project you would like us to tackle on the RugbyForce weekend then email Ian Lloyd at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We already have two sponsors on board in Dave Manning Painting & Building and Sally Hatcher Estates.