RUGBY ROUND-UP: Huntingdon & District are safe after late flirt with relegation zone

Huntingdon Stags v Newark

Huntingdon Stags v Newark - Credit: Archant

Huntingdon & District will play their rugby in the Midlands One East division again next season after flirting with relegation but securing their safety with a game to spare.

Huntingdon Stags v Newark

Huntingdon Stags v Newark - Credit: Archant

In their first season of Level 6 rugby, Stags dropped to their lowest point last week when they suffered a surprise defeat at Matlock. This left the team needing two wins from their final two games to be absolutely certain of avoiding the drop.

Huntingdon Stags v Newark

Huntingdon Stags v Newark - Credit: Archant

But a fine 34-14 win against Newark at the Racecourse on Saturday, coupled with a loss for third-from-bottom Matlock at Ilkeston, now means the team can sleep easy and enjoy the final game of the campaign away at Old Northamptonians.

Head coach Damien Whales said: “We knew we were a good enough team to be in this league and to stay in it so to have won and not to go into the last week needing a result is a testament to the team’s character. They are fully deserving of this.

“I singled out a few lads last week, asked questions of them, and most if not all stood up and answered those today.”

There was a nervy wait in the dressing until the score from Ilkeston came through – but the win for Huntingdon was pretty straightforward with Seth Muggeridge and Richard Smith setting up the front row to crash through Newark’s defence for what Whales described as “the most sensational forwards try of the season”. Rory Parker scored that one but Dan Malem hit an upright with his kick. Five minutes later Malem was accurate with a penalty kick.

Ben Strangeways broke through unopposed for the second try of the afternoon and Malem added the conversion for a 13-0 half-time lead.

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Wayne Bradley scored the third try with Tad Chapman now kicking the extras, and with 15 minutes remaining Tango Morgan scored the all-important bonus try which Chapman again converted. The fifth try was scored by Dainius Tamoulinas for 34-0 with Chapman this time missing.

Blotting their copybook, though, Stags let the visitors score two tries in the remaining 10 minutes.

Whales said: “We gave away too many penalties which was a disappointment but we are very fortunate to have front rowers with the silky ball skills that ours’ possess. The two tries that they set up were brilliant but it was a real team effort.”

Coach Paul Baynes added: “At the start of the season the simple goal was to stay up and this is mission accomplished.

“This is a very young squad and with one or two key recruits the future for Huntingdon is looking good.”

St Ives have two more games left after going to Daventry on Saturday and losing their latest Midlands Three East South fixture 33-22.

Paul Ashbridge scored 17 of the points for a Bulls side who will narrowly avoid relegation back to Four East, the division they worked so hard to escape last season. Nicolas Beaudouin scored the other try for 33 points but a less than impressive display in the second half was a disappointment for the team’s captain Jim Robinson.

“Had we scored a try in the second period we would have walked away with two bonus points, which our play in the first half more than deserved,” he said.

But, despite the loss, the team was apparently in good voice on the coach on the return journey. It was St Ives’ final away game of the season and the Bulls started well with Ashbridge breaking through and touching down twice early on for a 12-0 lead.

But some poor defending gave Daventry a soft penalty and they drove over with a well-rehearsed maul for their first try. Beaudouin extended St Ives’ lead shortly after but Daventry dominated the second half with only an Ashbridge penalty adding to the visitors’ points total.

“The lack of replacements and our ability to throw away a lead late on resulted in Daventry scoring three more tries,” said Robinson, who was ruled out of the match through injury along with Max Dominy and Luke Slade.

St Ives’ two remaining games are against Deepings on Saturday and on April 26 when Stockwood Park are their visitors.

St Neots will finish third in the Midlands Four East South division if they beat Corby on the last day of the season or better the final day result of Bedford Swifts.

St Neots won 50-17 at lowly Bourne on Saturday with Phil Sandling, Rhod Howcroft, Stefan Gallucci, Matt Ellwood, Jordan Rook, Ed Strand, Andrew Canape and Lewis Hall all getting on the scoresheet. Hall kick four conversions and Joe Woodgate one.

The club will be ruing the administrative error which saw them deducted 10 points earlier in the season. With those points still in place the team would be going into Saturday with promotion still a real possibility.

St Neots under-17s’ dream of more silverware in their 11th season of playing together came to an end when they were beaten 36-6 by Moseley in the final of the Midlands Cup. Ben Thompson scored the six points with two first-half penalties.

“It was a great effort from the Saints who did themselves proud with a gutsy performance,” said a team spokesman.