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West Norfolk Rugby Club enjoy momentous season on the pitch

Like many other clubs throughout the country, West Norfolk Rugby Club had their season cut short by the Coronavirus outbreak.

The 2019-20 season produced some of the finest rugby and in turn excellent results that the West Norfolk club has seen in its 95-year history.

After a change of coach and captain at the beginning of the season, head coach Darren Clarke aided by Tom Jones, Reg Dunne and Olly Denton quickly began to add their influence into the men’s senior section, led by first team captain Henry Rust and second team co-captains Kevin Foley and Martin Bridgeland.

West Norfolk Rugby Team photos - The whole squad. (37622636)
West Norfolk Rugby Team photos - The whole squad. (37622636)

West Norfolk fly-half Sam Moses kicked the club to victory over Cantabrigian in the opening game of the campaign before big wins against Beccles, Ipswich YM and Crusaders followed.

This spurred them on on to big wins against Beccles, Ipswich YM and Crusaders before accounting for Thetford in the first round of the RFU Senior Vase.

League victories against Fakenham, Thurston and Wisbech laid the platform for perhaps the toughest two games of the season so far.

In the second round of the Senior Vase, West Norfolk edged out Woodbridge by a solitary point and the unbelievable tackle count from new arrival Harry Robb helped them to victory at promotion rivals Ely.

The Gatehouse Lane outfit rounded off the first half of the campaign with a resounding 40-0 success over arch rivals Wisbech while the development ended 2019 with a bang by defeating Breckland Barbarians 111-14.

West Norfolk’s winning run continued throughout a soggy January before they would face Hitchin in the RFU Senior vase semi-final.

A 57-17 win saw them book their place in the RFU Senior Vase final for the first time in the competition’s history.

For the development side, some home successes and gaining some vital losing bonus points on the road secured their spot in the league for the following season.

After seeing off Thetford in a real league slog, West Norfolk turned their attentions to the RFU Senior Vase regional final against a well-proven and unbeaten Reeds Weybridge.

Action from theRFU regional final between West NOrfolk RFU and Reeds Weybridge RFU.Picture: Matthew Usher.. (31716713)
Action from theRFU regional final between West NOrfolk RFU and Reeds Weybridge RFU.Picture: Matthew Usher.. (31716713)

Jack Trundley scored West Norfolk’s only try while the boot of fly-half Moses was invaluable as the Gatehouse Lane side booked a trip to Chosen Hill Former Pupils from Gloucester in the semi-final of the national competition.

Despite having four league matches left to play, West Norfolk were crowned champions of London NE 3 Eastern Counties with Cantabs, also securing promotion with a better playing record than their Essex league counterparts Harlow.

Next season will see the club renew old rivalries in London NE 2 against sides such as Wymondham, Stowmarket and Diss whilst providing away trips to familiar opposition in the form of Wanstead, South Woodham Ferrers and Chelmsford.

Everyone continues to hope that we will see rugby return at some point in 2020 at Gatehouse Lane but the club’s thoughts are with everybody affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The club will continue to follow RFU guidance on how rugby can be reintroduced in a safe manner.

The club always welcomes new players and spectators alike, regardless of age or experience, and more information can be found on the club’s website and social media pages.

Men’s pre-season training starts on Tuesday, July 7, from 7pm, while West Norfolk Ladies continue to train on a Wednesday night at the same time.

Reflecting on the season, club chairman Graham Woodcock said: “The club as a whole has enjoyed one of its most successful seasons ever culminating in a famous win for West Norfolk in the regional senior vase competition against Reeds Weybridge.

“The abrupt ending to our season has not dampened the spirits of our many members who have remained connected through social media.

“We should also extend our gratitude to many of our members who work in the emergency services, NHS and are key workers.

“We continue to follow guidelines outlined by the RFU. Behind the scenes we are making our preparations and hope that rugby will return to West Norfolk very soon”

Head coach Darren Clarke said: “The success of the 2019/20 season at West Norfolk RFC was down to a tremendous team effort both on and off the pitch.

“It is the players who must take most credit however as their determination and commitment to maintain an unbeaten season never faltered culminating in the historic London Vase Final victory.

“Whilst the logistics of the 2020/21 season remain unclear at present we are looking forward to the challenges of a higher league and especially renewing some old rivalries.

“If we can continue the ethos and brotherhood of last season then we are confident we can perform at this higher level.”

Skipper Henry Rust added: “We now have high hopes for next season in which we want to establish ourselves in a tougher division.

“But we still have hopes as well that we will get to play out the remainder of the Senior Vase competition for a potential spot at Twickenham.”

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