THIS is the big one!
Huddersfield Rugby Union Club’s entire season boils down to just 80 minutes play tomorrow.
At the end of which the Lockwood Park club’s players and supporters will be either celebrating their elevation into National League status – or contemplating what might have been!
Midlands I runners-up Luctonians, from Leominster in Hereford, provide the play-off opposition with the winners rewarded with a place in National III North next season.
Huddersfield’s place in the play-offs has been on the cards for some time, particularly after opening the season with a seven-game winning streak, and has not really come as a surprise to the club’s Director of Rugby, Mark Sowerby.
“I suppose we’ve been expecting it for a couple of months really, even though we knew full well there were a couple of potential banana skins during the run-in,” admitted Sowerby, whose influence as coach, captain and No8, has been massive this season.
“Now it is all down to tomorrow. But if we can perform like I know we are capable of performing then I am not too worried.
“If you can defend your line as well as we can, and have this season, then I know we will be very difficult to beat.
“I thought overall we were excellent last week against Altrincham Kersal (Huddersfield ran in six tries for a 47-3 victory) after a bit of a shaky start when we put down a few passes and were probably guilty of trying just a bit too hard. But after we worked out what we should be doing, we scored some excellent tries which gave us great confidence to take into tomorrow’s play-off game.
“Not that I’m expecting it to be as easy tomorrow. I’m sure it will not be a walkover by either side, and is almost certain to be a tight match up until probably the last few minutes.”
Huddersfield’s defence has been the bedrock of their success this season, conceding just 255 points in their 22 North I League matches (at an average of 11.5 per game) which has helped them to 19 victories, and their highest-ever placing in the club’s history.
Coincidentally, Luctonians can offer the same boast, having given up 254 points in their 22 games, but despite that, they have lost seven times in this season’s campaign, which is why Huddersfield have home advantage.
Having been working away for a few days since it was confirmed that Luctonians would be Huddersfield’s opponents, Sowerby has had little chance to run the rule over the Leominstermen, but will be checking out where their strengths and weaknesses lay.
“I’m really more concerned about us, than what Luctonians have to offer,” added Sowerby.
“If we can demonstrate the togetherness that we’ve had for the last three or four years and display that willingness to work our socks off, then I’m convinced we’ll be ok.”
Jim Howard, who was rested last week, returns to the front row alongside in-form hooker James Davies and Tony Stringwell, while Nick Sharpe, who in the last couple of games has played at No8 at Westoe and was then rested until a second-half sub appearance last week, is back in the familiar second row spot to provide the go-forward power alongside Gavin Rhodes in the engine room.
Elsewhere, the side is the same which started the match at Altrincham. Jack McPhail, George Hinchliff and Tom Sharrock all start on the bench.
“We had a short chat after training last night to get the lads mentally focused, but otherwise it was just a case of going through our normal routine,” said Sowerby.
“I think the man who is most jittery in the set-up is our backs coach Neil Summers. He says he’s as nervous as hell, because he’s never been in this position before, where he has to watch from the sidelines and can’t do anything about it because he’s not playing.”