The Norwich Union name lives on…as a rugby club
10 April 2011
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The last time I was at Norwich Union RFC it was for a crisis meeting in 2008 with the committee and players, after the insurance company had told them that they would be selling the Pinebanks sports ground so the club, along with other sports clubs using the ground, would have to leave at the end of that season. Coupled with the club’s decision to withdraw from the Eastern Counties Leagues there was a risk it could disappear altogether.
Various options were discussed at the time including ground sharing with Lakenham-Hewett RFC, but this was rejected as they were sure that in time the two clubs would merge into one and the identity of one or even both could be lost. However, the club pulled together and after a lot of hard work from the committee, in particular Hon Secretary Steve Knights, they came to an agreement with Sprowston Cricket Club to share their ground and facilities. So I travelled up to Norwich looking forward to seeing how the club was progressing.
Club President Stuart Riseborough has been organising pre-match lunches this season and 17 were assembled including the Eastern Counties President, Chairman and Volunteer Coordinator. It was interesting to note that the average age of the Norwich Union RFC officials was younger that at most clubs and some of them still play, something you don’t see too often these days. It was clear from the conversations over lunch that the club is proud of it’s social traditions and that the members weren’t at all phased by being so close to the much larger clubs of Norwich and North Walsham.
As it happened the Norfolk Merit Table game we were going to watch was between Norwich Union and Norwich II. The sun was shining and both sets of forwards wisely decided to conserve their energy by walking from ruck to ruck from the beginning of the game. An error strewn first half was scoreless until a few minutes before the break when Norwich Union broke through for a 7-0 half-time lead.
Norwich II’s team talk must have mentioned something about the benefits of keeping the ball in hand rather than kicking away possession as they scored four tries before a late surge by Union saw them pull one back. However it was too little too late and Norwich IIs won 27-14. Click for pictures from the game.
The club will be re-entering Eastern Counties Division Two next season and I have seen worse performances in that league than the one on Saturday so they will be competitive. Norwich Union Insurance may have gone after being taken over by Aviva, and the Norwich Union football and hockey clubs may have changed their names after leaving Pinebanks, but Norwich Union Rugby Club has a future it can look forward to.