Clacton promoted to the London Leagues
27 April 2014
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The final Saturday of the League season saw me travelling to Newmarket for the Eastern Counties Division One play-off against Clacton. My loyalties were divided as I would always want to see an Eastern Counties club win, but I am a life member of Clacton and have known some of their players since they played youth rugby at Colchester.
We arrived to see that Newmarket were in the middle of their minis award event and that Clacton had filled a coach so both sides had plenty of support, and sure enough the game kicked off with a lot of noise from both sides of the pitch. A Clacton penalty and a well worked try and a penalty for the home side saw Newmarket with a 10-3 lead at half-time but I couldn’t help thinking that they should had made more of the wind advantage.
A team of three officials had been appointed for the game with experienced referee Dave Myers in the middle, but just before half time one of the touch judges was injured in a collision with a player and couldn’t continue. I spoke to Dave and offered to take over as I was probably the only qualified person there who was neutral in that I didn’t mind who won. The teams didn’t object so I handed my camera over to a friend and took the flag.
Clacton used the wind far better than their hosts and converted a long range penalty to narrow the gap to four points. Soon after, another penalty chance fell Clacton’s way but the kick was badly hooked. However an outrageous piece of luck saw the ball bounce off the chest of the Newmarket player while trying to gather it on the bounce and it fell into the hands of a Clacton back who ran through a huge gap to touch down under the posts, the conversion giving the Essex side a 10-13 lead.
Clacton had their tails up and dominated play, another try extending their lead to 10-18, but Newmarket managed to get some possession and charged into the opposition 22 and eventually came away with a converted try to trail by one point with ten minutes left to play. The noise from both sets of supporters was tremendous and they urged their teams on, and it looked like Clacton had sealed it with a try in the corner only for the substitute touch judge to raise his flag for a foot in touch. However Clacton hung on to their slender lead and they and the travelling support were ecstatic at having won promotion to play in the London Leagues for the first time in their history.
Both sets of players were gracious in victory and defeat and the Essex contingent proceeded to drink the bar dry before getting on their coach to continue the celebrations nearer home.
As usual I had been posting updates on Twitter and Facebook and it was good to see messages of support and congratulations from members of Colchester, Mersea Island, Harwich & Dovercourt, Brightlingsea and Mistley Rugby Clubs, showing how close the the rugby community is in North East Essex, and there were others from around Eastern Counties who added their own messages.
Pictures from the game can be viewed on Facebook or on my own photo site.