THIS season’s success and stability will be the base for the squad’s future, says Hereford Rugby Club’s star flanker Matt Pritchard, writes ADAM KNIGHT.
The city club rounded out their league season with a 24-21 win away to Stoke – securing third spot in Midlands One West and handing starts to Mark Philo and Frank Kelly, the latest young backs to emerge from the club’s ranks.
Philo crossed on his first-team debut, with a Josh Day double, a try for skipper Ali McColl
And two conversions from Connor Sullivan were enough to see Hereford home.
Having missed their shot at promotion with a loss to relegation candidates Old Laurentians, a fortnight ago, the side shifted focus to sealing third place and finishing strong.
Now they have the opportunity to extend their season by beating National League side Newport in a North Midlands Cup semi-final tie at Wyeside this Saturday.
“We want to challenge Luctonians – we want to get back in those derbies again,” said Pritchard, one of the few players left to have experienced the cross-county rivalry first hand at senior level.
“We want to have a winning team, one that people take notice of.
“We took a step back towards that this year – and winning the cup would finish it off.”
They will have to do so without the dangerous running of Sean Day, who suffered a concussion against Stoke and will have to miss the rest of the season.
But his absence opens the door for the impressive Philo to gain more experience at first team level, in a season characterised by the emergence of a young core at the club.
Jamie Humphreys and Alex Hickinbotham have grown into imposing second-row partnership, while Gus Lowther and Scott Robinson have stepped up, gaining crucial experience and turning in some impressive performances in the front row.
“Everyone was disappointed not to get second, and miss out on the experience of playing in the playoffs,” said Pritchard.
It can be big step for sides – Pritchard was part of the team that twice missed in the play-offs before gaining promotion – but one Hereford are confident of overcoming next year, in bringing National League rugby back to Wyeside.