The news about one of my former clubs (highlighted below) got me thinking about what kind of season my former and current clubs have had and, despite the fact that the season has not quite finished yet, it seemed an opportune moment to review what's been happening over the past 8 months.
Back in October Peterborough RUFC (where I played Colts rugby and a handful of senior games from 1980-83), were lying 8th in Midlands 1 and, following a 21-7 victory over Kenilworth last weekend and with one match to go - away to Longton on Saturday - 8th is exactly where they remain. With 10 wins, 11 defeats and 20 points, I'd describe their season as "solid" . Being my first club, where I learned not only how to play the game but how to survive in the bar afterwards, I've always has a soft spot for Boro' and it's great to see them safely ensconced at that level.
Guildford RFC (previously "Guildford & Goldalming"), for whom I played in 1986-87, were riding high in London 2 South back in October with 3 wins from 4 games. Since then, however, they've slumped to second from bottom, having only won one more match and having lost 16 times. Last weekend's 10-51 defeat to Jersey won't have helped their cause and, having been relegated from London 1 last season, a second successive relegation looks on the cards whatever the outcome of Saturday's fixture away to Beckenham.
Ealing, awash with referees, have had an altogether more successful time of it. Promoted at the end of last season to National 3 South, Ealing currently lie 3rd which, to my knowledge, certainly represents their most successful season ever. A record of 17 wins, 1 draw and 7 defeats at this level is a fantastic return on the season and, despite facing a tough away fixture against 2nd placed Cinderford this weekend, they must be more than chuffed with their efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of seasons or so I played there as a 20-something, single bloke with no mortgage, no commitments and a disposable income which I wasted largely on beer in the Ealing clubhouse!
Meanwhile, one rung down on the league ladder, Barnes RFC have had another very solid season in London 1. If consolidation is the aim then Barnes have certainly achieved it, being 5th in the table (the same as the past 2 seasons I believe). It's a notoriously difficult league to escape from (upwards) - just ask Richmond who have finally managed it this season at the 3rd attempt. Barnes thrashed Thanet Wanderers 67-5 last weekend and face an away trip to Bishop Stortford on Saturday, a match they should win to complete another good season. It's great to see Barnes going well having been there at the start of their climb up the leagues from Surrey 2 - it's also the club where I was first introduced, back in 1992, to the lovely girl who went on to become Mrs Flanker!
So now finally to Chesham, the club responsible for resurrecting this creaking old has-been and providing him with a new lease of life and a whole host of new niggly injuries. Chesham's certainly the smallest club I've been involved with and has a distinct community feel to it - its junior section in particular being extremely well run. The 1st XV have had a mixed time of it this season but ultimately has managed to survive reasonably comfortably in Berks/Bucks & Oxon 1 North, currently lying in 7th place with 7 wins and 12 defeats. Chesham took the decision this season to try to integrate as many of the youngsters coming through the juniors system into the senior ranks, with the result that several 17 year olds have made their 1st team debuts this season - something that can only bode well for the future. A tough away fixture against Banbury 2nds will bring the season to a close on Saturday.
As for me, with no fixture likely to be scheduled for this weekend, it looks like that's my season done and dusted and I guess I should look back on the season with some satisfaction. After all, taking up the game again after a 14 year gap is no mean feat, and I've come through it with no major injuries and some performances which bordered on the half-decent. Granted, we failed to win any of the 4 matches in which I played (and I've not long finished a phone conversation with Colin, the Vets' captain, who confirmed that Saturday's match against Ruislip - which I missed - was a familiar tale of getting off to a slow start, then rallying in the second half but ultimately succumbing to a better organised team), but it's been fun to be involved with, the camaraderie has been first rate and I did manage to score my first try this century! My only gripes are that my body didn't allow me to play the way I used to 14 years ago (perhaps understandably) and that I only got to play 4 games thanks to the cancellation of two fixtures by the same club (you know who you are!). To paraphrase former England hooker John Pullin - Chesham Vets may not be any good, but at least we turn up!