A desire to improve helps Kettering secure their crown

Kettering celebrate securing the Midlands One East title
Kettering celebrate securing the Midlands One East title

Saturday proved a night to remember – or at least try to remember – for Kettering as they celebrated securing the Midlands One East title.

The season-long, topsy-turvy battle with Paviors at the top was finally settled with the Blues’ 47-8 win at old rivals Wellingborough and it sees them return to the top level of Midlands rugby for the first time since 2010.

The celebrations start following Kettering's win over Wellingborough

The celebrations start following Kettering's win over Wellingborough

Something worth celebrating.

“We had a few drinks there and then headed back to the club and made a bit of a night of it,” director of rugby Doug Bridgeman said.

“We also had a touring side over to play the mini-juniors and there were over 100 of them so it was a busy night.

“The were a lot of celebrations when we got the fourth try as that meant, to all intents and purposes, we were guaranteed to go up.

“I think after that the guys relaxed a bit and we went on to score three more and win quite comfortably.

“It wasn’t pretty for a long while but Wellingborough were never going to lie down.

“They stuck at it and caused us a few problems.

“But the fourth try was the significant moment. It allowed us to play with a bit more freedom.

“One good thing was that George Newman scored the try that sealed it.

“He’s the captain and has led the side well and it was nice he got that moment.”

In a season of success there will be several things to reflect on with pride.

But Bridgeman has no doubt as to his highlight.

“It’s been nine years since we were last at that level.

“Only one player is left that was involved last time and that is Tom (Bridgeman) so it will be a new experience for most.

“And that has been the most pleasing thing about this season – the way the young lads have come in and not only performed but raised the standards of the other guys.

“They have all played significant parts in the games they’ve appeared in – and there haven’t necessarily been that many – but they have contributed a lot.

“I was talking to Joe Newman on Saturday and he said just the fact they were there has re-enthused him.

“It’s made a few people think ‘I’ve got to work a bit harder now’ – the young lads have been a big plus for us.”

As well as the young stars who have helped take the club forward, Bridgeman also paid tribute to the contribution of two men who have very literally been there, seen it, done it.

Former Exeter Chiefs prop Brett Sturgess is in his second year as the Blues head coach while former Northampton Saints centre Jon Clarke has taken on responsibility for the backs.

Between them they bring several hundred Premiership matches worth of experience and are starting to put their stamp on the Kettering side.

“Brett has found his feet this season," Bridgeman explained.

“He came in with a lot of ideas based on his years of experience but he has changed his approach to some degree. He’s brought more of his own philosophy.

“When he first came his approach was quite Exeter influenced - which is understandable after spending so many years there.

“But I think now he has brought more of his own ideas to it and has developed things the way he feels is right.

“Jon is still very current. He’s still involved at the Saints and has introduced the guys to some of the things they do.

“He’s certainly improved us in terms of the players' understanding of shape and depth and has added to the success.

“And that information has not only helped achieve success this year but is good stuff to take forward to next season.

“The guys have learned from him and are now more experienced and comfortable with the different patterns he has introduced.

“It should stand us in good stead for next season.”

As for next season, although the hangovers have only just worn off from Saturday's celebrations – and there is still a game to go in this campaign– planning has started for the future.

Bridgeman added: “We’ve already had a meeting and an initial discussion about next year.

“We will put some extra things in place for the existing players.

“We will look to make everything a little more professional.

“Our mantra this season has been ‘better than before’ and everyone has bought into that.

“Our success this season has been because a number of things have got a little bit better.

“We’ve improved on various things. There is not one single factor that has made us a stronger team.

“So we are looking at lots of things that will keep us improving.

“We will look at strength and conditioning, our physio set-up, our medical support, nutrition - anything that can make us better.

“We are all mindful of the fact we need to step up next season.

“Whether that is with the existing players or any others that might want to come and join us.

“It would seem obvious that a team at Level 5 will have more of a pull than a team at Level 6 and no one is in a position to turn away good players if they want to come and join you.

“But most of our guys are still young enough to compete and develop - they are not an ageing group - and should be really hungry to have a go at the next level.

“Everyone is well aware we’ve got a big challenge to face and we need to improve.

“But if that is to include players who want to join us they will have to buy into our club ethos which is about wanting to play because they enjoy it.

“That’s what it is still all about.”