SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager
As the coaches and players plus loyal supporters at Sutton Coldfield RFC prepare for the start of the new league season, which starts this weekend 7th Sept with a coach trip to old rivals Hereford RFC, no doubt all thoughts automatically reflect on the experience of the last two league seasons in Midlands 1 West, level 6, noting that although each brought the same result i.e. a safe 10th place finish in a league of 14 teams, with the bottom 3 teams automatically relegated to level 7, the two seasons were sharply contrasting!!
The 2017/18 season saw Sutton experience a disastrous injury hit first half of the season leaving them fixed to the bottom of the table at Christmas 2017 with 13 games to play...but hopes of a comeback in the second half of the season faded as they lost the first four games in January 2018 stretching the gap at the bottom, leaving only 9 games to play through February to the end of the season.
However, at this point in the season the return of key players from injury and a rejuvenated team spirit saw a dramatic return to form and by shear commitment and drive Sutton won 7 of the remaining 9 games, boosted by 6 try scoring bonus points to lift them out of the relegation zone to the safety of a 10th place finish, with teams in places 12, 13 and 14 suffering relegation.
By contrast at the start of last season, 2018/19 Sutton continued where they left off at the end of the previous season, losing the first game by only a narrow margin but gaining a losing bonus point before winning the next four games convincingly and continuing to enjoy success through to Christmas 2018 sitting comfortably around mid table but misfortune struck again at the start of 2019 and Sutton suffered from injuries and the availability of key players resulting in a loss of form, which saw them slid down the table, hovering around the relegation zone as the season progressed.
Fortunately by the end of the season Sutton found that they had done enough in the early part of the season to compensate for their problems later in the season and with other results going their way Sutton again found safety in the number 10 slot but in sharp contrast to the previous season.
Now as Sutton make the final preparations for the new league season, which starts this weekend 7th Sept. they can reflect on the contrasting experiences of the last two seasons and resolve to combine the best two parts of the previous seasons to make this new season a resounding success and the team is aided in this endeavour by the welcome return of former club captain Jack Woodcock, who returns to the club after a two year sabbatical in which he adventured across world with his girlfriend but happily they have returned home safely to Sutton and Jack's presence in the pack has already strengthened and lifted the team.
The team is also boosted by the return to the backline of Jack Duthie, who missed much of the second half of last season due to injury but now returns for the start of the new season, alongside the worthy Paul Spiby, a combination that inspired the team to achieve the remarkable success in the second half of the 2017/18 season.
Also encouraging is the fact that the team have trained well in the summer and have attracted new talent to boost their squad numbers, all taking part in a good preseason programme, with very effective warm-up games and although the results went against Sutton the performances have been very encouraging as the new team and combinations take shape.
In total Sutton played three official preseason warm-up games, the first two being played as weekday floodlight evening games against, first; Syston RFC in a friendly away at Syston on a very wet Friday evening, in which the home side had the best of the scoring but new look Sutton competed well and showed great promise against an established and well drilled Syston side under the coaching of former Sutton player/coach Alex White; then Sutton played Rugby Lions at Walmley Road, in the semi-final of the Warwickshire Cup. Again the game was played in very wet conditions on a Weds evening and proved to be a close contests with Sutton closing to 12-15 after tries by Chris Duckworth and Harry Moxon respectively plus a conversion by fly half Ben Morgan put them in close contention but with just minutes to go and with Sutton camped on the Lion's line, a miscommunication by Sutton lost a try scoring chance to win the game and the Lions broke out of their half to create a scoring chance for the visitors fleet footed scrum half Callum Forsyth, who exploited the blind side and raced in for the decisive try to end Sutton's interest in the Warwickshire Cup for another season with a 20-12 defeat.
Sutton's final weekend of preparation ahead of the start of the league season, took the full squad on a day out by coach to enjoy the fine countryside in North Yorkshire, where they had a practise run out against a useful Harrogate side, who play their league rugby in the Northern Division, North Premier League level 5, where Harrogate finished in 3rd place last season... but the day did not go as well as Sutton would have wished, as they sustained a number of injuries in the early exchanges and in order to have enough players left injury free and able to start the new league season this weekend, the physical side of the visit was drawn to a close after 50 minutes and the teams withdrew to the bar to continue the occasion with more friendly pursuits...
All safely home in the Midlands following their excursion into the Northern territories, Sutton make ready for their trip to Hereford this weekend planning to start their 2019/20 league campaign with a win before returning to the Roger Smoldon Ground, Walmley Road for their first home game of the season against a high flying, newly promoted Kenilworth RFC on 14th Sept 2019.
A Happy and Successful new season to all.
SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager