Somewhat unbelievably, this weekend is the last of the regular season for most rugby clubs in England and it seems an appropriate time to look back and reflect over the last 8 months and think about what kind of season my former and current clubs have had.
Chesham, my current club, have had what might be described as a very "solid" season. Starting slowly, they lost their first 8 matches before rallying mid-season to put together a 6 match winning streak and stave off the threat of relegation. A playing staff made up largely of teenagers and 30-somethings (and perhaps the odd 40-something) has eased the team comfortably into in 6th place in Berks/Bucks & Oxon 1 North and represents steady progress on last season's efforts. Chesham finish the season with a home fixture against Aylesbury 2nds today, a match they should win.
As for the Vets, having won our last fixture 3 weeks ago I think we have to conclude that the season has been a success. Having said that, I'm a tad miffed that our fixture today against Beaconsfield 3rd XV was called off. I've been nursing a sore achilles through the last couple of weeks so that I could play one last game of the season for the Vets so I was more than disappointed to hear that the game was off, especially given that I'd also forsaken the chance to play in a charity match at my old club Barnes in order to turn out for my team.
Nevertheless, six fixtures in total represents two more than last season and I must say I've thoroughly enjoyed my second season back in the game. I'm far more comfortable in what I'm doing, my confidence has been high, my defence is much improved on last year and I've even chipped in with a few tries late in the season. All I need now is to get my fitness levels up and my weight down (the two are just possibly related) for next season. And if anyone knows where I can purchase a bucket-load of pace, please let me know.
Barnes, meanwhile, have had a storming season in London 1, and trail leaders Shelford on points difference only. They play Luton today, needing a huge win to overhaul the leaders and with the best will in the world it's a huge ask. Nevertheless, 2nd in London 1 is nothing to sniff at and they should, at the very least, get a crack at winning promotion to the National leagues via a play off. Given that they were in Surrey Division 2 in my first full season in 1991-1992 the progress they've made as a club is just fantastic.
Just as impressively, if not more so, with two fixtures remaining Ealing sit 2nd in National 3 South behind London Scottish. I'm not sure how many teams go up to National 2 this season (if any, given that there appears to be yet another re-organisation on the cards) but the club (who were in the old National 4 when I first joined back in the late eighties) certainly occupy their highest league position and hopefully, with a tough away fixture at Rosslyn Park (how the mighty have fallen) today, can maintain their lofty status through to the end of the season.
Meanwhile Guildford (formerly Guildford & Godalming) - for whom I played in 1986-87 - sit 3rd in London 3 SW. After two successive relegations this represents something of a success and at the very least steadies the boat. With the top two in the division, Chichester and Wimbledon, clashing today, an away win for Guildford at Effingham & Leatherhead could see them end the season in 2nd place, a creditable finish.
Finally Peterbrough, where I started my club rugby career, face Longton today and are currently 5th in Midlands 1 - almost, but not quite, challenging for promotion. Again this represents an improvement on last season and it's good to see the club going so well. In checking out their website I noticed that not only did Benny Lee - a teacher at my old school - turn 70 last year, but that he also played in a Veterans rugby match at Peterborough to celebrate the occasion. Benny was a pretty handy backrow forward in his day, as I recall, and was largely responsible for starting my school's first ever 1st XV when I was in the sixth form. I only wish I'd known about the match last year as I'd have loved to have played a part. I guess I'll gave to wait for his 80th!
Well, that's it. Although there's talk of another Vets match being organised before the season closes I suspect that it won't happen and that the season is, in fact, over. I'll look back on this one with some satisfaction - I'm just pleased that I've managed to get through another "bonus" season more or less in one piece!