Vase could offer Twickenham chance for S&L and Oundle
Stewarts & Lloyds and Oundle look to take a step closer to Twickenham on Saturday.
They are three wins away from playing at rugby’s headquarters having reached the Midlands semi-finals of the RFU Senior Vase.
Both teams have home advantage this weekend.
Oundle, crowned Midlands Three East (South) champions last week, meet Southam and S&L face Ledbury.
Two years ago, S&L were just one win away from Twickenham and the starting XV on Saturday could include several members of the team that missed out, including Grieg Cook, Steve Barnes, Tom Crockett, Mike McIntyre and Milan Crooks, the club’s vice-chairman.
Crooks, however, accepts Ledbury are the favourites on Saturday.
The Herefordshire side are currently third in Midlands Three West (South), while S&L had their hopes of a top-six finish in Midlands Three East (South) dented by defeat at St Ives last weekend.
Harry Campbell’s try and five points from the boot of Jake Biddle kept the Corby side in touch at 14-10, but St Ives made sure of victory with a late try.
Crooks said S&L were “very, very poor” and added: “Hopefully Ledbury were there to watch us last week – they will think this weekend’s game is a walk in the park.
“We were absolutely shocking. Maybe the players had one eye on this weekend’s cup game, but whatever the reason was, we were very, very poor.”
The game was disrupted by a head injury to Harrison Ship that makes him doubtful for this weekend.
Crooks reports no other injury worries, but added: “The way we played against St Ives, every shirt is up for grabs. It will come down to who performs in training this week.”
S&L Vets are also in semi-final action at Occupation Road on Saturday.
They have reached the last four of the East Midlands Vets Cup and meet Kettering.
Crooks hopes both sides will receive good backing and says the club’s supporters can make a difference.
He said: “I really believe the crowd can lift us this weekend. You always play better when there’s a crowd there cheering for you.
“There are two cup semi-finals at the ground and that’s a good afternoon if you’re a rugby fan.”
Crooks added: “We don’t know anything about Ledbury and I’m sure they know nothing about us either.
“They are having a better season than us, but in cup games like this it’s all about who turns up and performs on the day.”
Oundle completed the seemingly inevitable by clinching the Midlands Three East (South) title at the weekend.
Having been frontrunners for the whole season it always seemed a case of when, not if, they would secure their prize.
It turned out to be the home encounter with Dunstablians that took them far enough way from the chasing pack they could no longer be caught – and all with three games still remaining.
They knew a bonus-point win would give them the title and they had most of the job done by the break. A first-half hat-trick from Joe Sagoe and one for Toby Snelling gave them the four tries.
Then it was a case of making sure they won the game, something a second-half score from Saad Sait helped to do at 29-8.
With 16 points in hand on second-placed Stockwood Park, the Eagles can now turn their attention to adding some Senior Vase success.
Kettering brought an end to their slight stutter in Midlands One East by beating an out-of-sorts Ilkeston 29-0.
Tries for Jordan Butlin, Joe Daniel, Dan Ireland (2) and Josh Cox did the damage.
Wellingborough’s woes continue, though, as they lost 32-3 at bottom-of-the-table Old Laurentians – their seventh straight loss.
Rushden & Higham moved off the foot of Midlands Two East (South) with a thrilling 44-37 success at Olney while Old Grammarians were 36-11 winners at Stamford College Old Boys.