The league season is over for most clubs so now is a chance to look at who went up, who was relegated and who is in the play-offs.
Cambridge are within touching distance of promotion to National One despite losing in a thriller last week at Bury St Edmunds 43-38. A win at home against relegated Dorking on Saturday will be enough. I have the honour of presenting the National Two South winners with the league trophy and for obvious reasons I hope it is Cambridge, but if the worst happens I will have to race over to St Albans and make the presentation to Old Albanians instead.
Eastern Counties teams promoted in the London Leagues last season have all survived and only one local team has been relegated, Beccles propping up London 3NE so dropping down to Eastern Counties 1. Saffron Walden will play in London 1N next season and they may be joined by Sudbury who have a home play-off against Hammersmith & Fulham on Saturday.
Eastern Counties 1 champions Ely will replace Beccles in London 3NE while Wymondham have a tricky away play off game at Ilford Wanderers to go up with them.
Promotion and relegation in the Eastern Counties Leagues below EC1 is anything but simple. There are three leagues (Eastern Counties 2 North, South and West) feeding into EC1 and the rules say that the three winners have a play-off series with the bottom EC1 team. This would mean two ‘semi-finals’ and the winners playing for the promotion spot. So on Saturday Thurston were due to play Gt Yarmouth-Broadland and Colchester III were taking on Bury St Edmunds III.
This was slightly changed this season as there were only 11 teams competing in EC1 so to bring it back up to 12 the winners of the two semis would be promoted. If Wymondham were to win their play-off that would create an extra space in EC1 so the two losing semi-finalists would play with the winner going up.
So far so good, but it was never going to be that easy.
Mersea Island have not had the best of seasons and were experiencing difficulty in getting a team together for the further away games. They have applied to move out of EC1 and play in EC2S next season where the more local fixtures would allow them to rebuild and have more competitive games. Under RFU rules Thurston, who were bottom of EC1, are reprieved as Mersea go down, but this now means that there are three teams competing for two places in EC1. Lots of suggestions have been made as to how this should be done but the Competitions committee (who would want their job?) decided that the play-offs should be postponed until after the result of the play-off between Ilford Wanderers and Wymondham is known. If Wymondham win then an extra space in EC1 is created and all the EC2 winners will be promoted. If Wymondham lose however, an announcement will be made on Monday 2 May as to how the two teams to be promoted will be decided. We will know more after the weekend.
In the rest of the ECRU leagues it is a little more straightforward:
- EC2N – Holt II and Beccles II are relegated
- EC2S – Ipswich YM II and Aldeburgh & Thorpeness are relegated
- EC2W – Mildenhall Red Lodge and March Bears are relegated. I am sure both clubs will find competition a bit easier in EC3W and can start to string some wins together
- EC3N – North Walsham II and Norwich Union are promoted while Thetford II and Lakenham-Hewett are relegated
- EC3S – Brightlingsea are promoted as champions and will be joined by Colchester IV but only if Colchester III are promoted to EC1 as there is a rule preventing two teams from the same club competing in the same league in which case Thurston II will go up instead. Stowmarket III and Mersea Island II are relegated but with 15 call-offs between them this season I think it is unlikely that we will be these team competing in 2016/17
- EC3W – Sawston are champions but second-placed Shelford IV will stay where they are as Shelford III are in the league above. Third-placed Cantabrigian III have the same problem with their 2nd team in EC2W so I’m not sure if promotion will be offered to Cambourne Exiles who finished in fourth place or if another solution will be found. No teams are relegated from this league.
- EC4N – Fakenham II and Great Yarmouth-Broadland II are promoted
- EC4S – Southwold II and Bury St Edmunds IV are promoted.
I should add that these are only my assumptions based on the competition rules but there may be other factors that should change things. You can see all results and tables for the ECRU leagues by going to www.ecrurugby.com
So all eyes on Cambridge, Sudbury and especially Wymondham on Saturday. Twitter feeds for the clubs if you want to follow their progress during the afternoon:
- Cambridge @camrufc
- Sudbury @SudburyRFC
- Wymondham @WymondhamRUFC and Ilford Wanderers @IlfordRFC (both have Twitter accounts but neither seems to keep it updated; perhaps they may make a special effort on Saturday)
- You can also follow me @Andrew_Sarek where I will retweet scores as I get them