Pocklington RUFC season review

Pocklington first XV’s second successive league championship title capped an outstanding season for the club.

New to Yorkshire Division One, Pocklington took time to acclimatise to the higher level, lost four of their first eight league games, and found themselves back in eighth place at the end of October, 16 points behind the leaders.

But the side’s success of the previous year had been based on a strong work ethic, both in matches and in training, and so the players regrouped, increased their efforts in training and set off on a remarkable winning run.

As the early leaders faltered, Pocklington’s challenge got stronger and stronger, and 18 successive league victories saw them march to the championship, convincingly winning Yorkshire One by eight clear points.

Pocklington came into Yorkshire One as the youngest and most homegrown team. Week in, week out they faced sides packed with experienced players who had performed at the top level, or strengthened by southern hemisphere imports.

In contrast, most weeks Pocklington’s line-up saw 17 of the 18 players having come through the club’s junior ranks, usually five or six of them being teenagers. But, while other clubs had experience and star players, Pocklington had a team that worked for each other, and eventually became unstoppable.

In some games, opponents were blown away by impressive bouts of high tempo rugby, but in others it was Pocklington’s will to win that saw them come from behind to take the result, their fitness and determination seeing them home in the closing minutes.

Skipper Mat Webber, who has now led Pocklington to a league championship in each of his two years in charge, summed up the triumph, but also noted how the side is always looking towards the next challenge, saying: “We’ve all pulled together well and the ethos we have in the club is great.

“We were all obviously delighted in winning the league, and the celebrations afterwards were marvellous, but while we’re really pleased to have won the title, a bit of our focus immediately turned to next season and what we’ll need to do.”

Coach Mick Watson also added that the achievement was even more notable because no one had predicted it. Pre-season, nobody had Pocklington down as title chasers and, in the first half of the campaign, the club’s target was consolidation and finishing in the top four or five.

But once they got a sniff of the title the players really stepped up, with Watson adding: “Being so unexpected makes it even more enjoyable, the commitment from everyone has been outstanding.”

A team is only as good as its back up, and Pocklington used 38 players during the league campaign who all played their part in the success.

But, beneath that, there was a consistent core of players who turned it on every week and set the standard for others to follow - 14 players appeared in 20 or more games, with teenage lock Tom Peters leading the way by being an everpresent.

And youth was at the heart of the success, with teenagers Billy Hardy, who scored ten tries with his strength on the wing, and Jake Bishop, who was thrown in at the deep end at centre mid-season, both looking made for first team rugby in their first senior season in the game.

The team ethic is also shown in the scoring statistics, with ten players getting five or more tries. Jack Holbrough’s energy and consistency were outstanding and he also scored 20 touchdowns from flanker, with strong running centre Tim Nixon and powerful scrum half Ben Rees both getting into double figures in the try chart. Fullback Nick Bennett’s goalkicking was also crucial in close games and he ended with 192 points.

The stats also show that Pocklington were the second top scorers in the division and had the meanest defence. They further indicate that the team is developing year on year; last season the fowards outscored the backs by a ratio of 2:1 but, this term, the improvement in their off-loading game and attacking play has seen 54 league tries scored by the backs against 45 by the forwards.

The first XV triumph was obviously the talking point of the season, and their performances drew increasing numbers of appreciative supporters down to Percy Road on Saturdays and even got non-rugby people talking about the side.

But there was also plenty elsewhere in the club that was praiseworthy.

The Panthers had had an excellent season, particularly before Chistmas, and finished third in the East Riding Premier Merit Table; while the Pilgrims started slowly but had some good wins mid-term and brought through a clutch of promising youngsters into senior rugby.

And the junior section - Pocklington have teams at every age group from under six to under 17 - continues to thrive. There were innumerable fine team and individual performances amongst the younger age groups, while there was a big day out for the Under-16s and Under-15s, who both reached the Yorkshire Plate final against the odds. The Under-16s became Yorkshire Plate champions, with the Under-15s just missing out on the day.

The RFU also recognised Pocklington’s high standards when club officials went to Twickenham to become one of the first 90 clubs in the country to be awarded club accreditation status.

However, there can be no greater reward for all the hard work that coaches and adminstrators put in year on year, than seeing a Pock boy go all the way, and 2012 was the year when former Pocklington player Rob Webber stepped on to the international stage to win three caps for England.

Roll on 2012-13!

Review and picture by Phil Gilbank