Holt on the up
29 January 2012
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I was invited to a pre-match lunch at Holt on Saturday. I have been to the club a few times before and was at their 50th Annual Dinner earlier this season, but it I wasn’t looking forward to travelling 90 miles from one end of East Anglia to the other on a road network with few stretches of dual carriageway.
Holt is almost as far north as you can go in Eastern Counties. The North Sea coast is just five miles further and if you carry on northwards from there you won’t hit any land until the pack ice of the Arctic. I decided to take the train to Norwich where I got a lift to the club (many thanks to Jan Pierson) which was over an hour’s drive.
The town of Holt has a population of 5,000 or so and is in the heart of rural North Norfolk which is sparsely populated, but somehow the rugby club manages to put out three adult teams on a Saturday and boasts a mini & youth section of 250 players. This really is a fantastic achievement as the area has no major population centres.
Gresham’s School is nearby and the club benefits from their rugby playing reputation. Former pupils England scrum-half Ben Youngs and his older brother Tom who is currently at Leicester Tigers started their club rugby at Holt RFC and are regular supporters; Tom was at Saturday’s game and they both came to help out at the club’s last mini rugby festival. The club is well supported generally with over 100 sitting down for lunch although much of the talk seemed to centre around agricultural matters – farming is very big around here!
Holt have been having one of their best ever seasons and were unbeaten in London Division Three until a surprise defeat at Upminster at the start of the new year. They have been bolstered with the arrival of a couple of players from North Walsham and I was impressed by the quality of the team’s play in Saturday’s game against Sudbury. Both sides were prepared to throw the ball about but maybe Sudbury hadn’t got the coach journey out of their system as Holt scored four tries in the first half-hour to go 24-0 up before the Suffolk side managed to score a try of their own.
The second half was a lot more even and continued to be entertaining with both sets of backs being given plenty of ball to run with, and although Sudbury scored two converted tries to worry the home support, an interception by Holt sealed a 31-21 win. Click here for pictures from the game
Norfolk neighbours Norwich did them a favour by beating second-placed club Harlow so Holt are now 13 points clear at the top of the table with seven games to play and must be almost certain of promotion to London Two, the highest level they will have played at since the inception of leagues.
Writing this on the train home I’m pleased I made the 2½ hour trek up to North Norfolk where the home club was welcoming, the rugby was exciting and the post-match atmosphere in the clubhouse was as good as any I have seen.
Thanks to all at Holt Rugby Club.