All Hail To Caldy Rugby Club
The day before the World Cup 1991, and the week of our opening match against the All Blacks, I had dispensation to go to a wedding in North West England which would definitely not have happened these days. I was in great form and hoping to play but had a niggling injury. So I trained on the local pitch in a village called Caldy. I remember a great running surface even on a drizzly, murky day and although I didn’t make the cut for the All Blacks, the experience stuck in my mind.
Some years ago and as an active supporter of the club, I saw them miss promotion into the National League 1 by a whisker in a game against Richmond they deserved to win down in London but you could sense a real rugby ethos and a quiet ambition, all self-generated by their family approach. Felt like Bath in the old days.
With a pocket-sized clubhouse and a blazing log fire to welcome all visitors, this is a club where the heart and soul of the sport is beating hard. I continue to support them (not least through our Sporting Wine) and hope I count as a true friend these days. Their promotion to the Championship was a stunning achievement and has reverberated through the game nationwide. The journey into the quicksand of the second tier is sadly fraught with unintended consequences and for that the RFU stand condemned yet again and yes they have had years to get this sorted out. Not acceptable.
Ironically, with the moratorium on relegation from the Premiership, it has saved Bath a potential trip to the Wirral should they finish bottom. However, this is where the fallen giants might just find the missing spirit that this courageous village side show in abundance. Caldy is also a brilliant side without the ball – I saw them defend non stop for 20 mins against Plymouth Albion in full attack mode and then score 30 points themselves without reply – and this is partly down to their team ethic and collective will. Bath could learn a thing or two. Mind you, it was Waterloo just along the road whether the great Guscott made his precocious club debut alongside me in the centre and the game was a humdinger. The North West has a proud rugby heritage.
Still in amateur world, I witnessed a stunning contest between Army and Navy at Twickenham last weekend, brilliantly refereed by Sara Cox and a salutary reminder that such one-off matches are a proud feature in the rugby calendar. The men in Navy Blue played quite brilliantly ( especially the scrum half) but were reeled in and sunk by some Army beef at the close. The debut of the Women’s match at Twickenham afterwards was a brilliant moment for the day. But the overwhelming win for the Army was a reminder, as was England Women’s utter dominance in the Six Nations, that uniform investment must take place. Mismatches are eventually uninteresting to the watching public. The England players have themselves been vocal that they wish to compete on a level field rather than engage in monotonous wins, and the administrators need to listen and act. I attended a Q&A at Twickenham when the representatives of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England were in agreement that one pro team versus amateurs will be a short-lived phenomenon as well as very dangerous.
Finally, the European Q-finals are upon us after another stunning weekend of Premiership action. Leicester warmed up for their titanic struggle with Leinster with a comprehensive win over the malfunctioning Bristol Bears, while the Irish Province rested their entire first team from a trip to South Africa. Hmm, we will see how that works.
I suspect though that it is the French who are licking their lips in anticipation and they will likely dominate the semifinal draw, with half an eye on a sunny Finals weekend in Marseille.
Despite all this, I come back to the scenes of emotion and tearful joy which will live in the memory for some time as a loyal band of Wirral supporters celebrated their players’ heroics and the great game that is rugby in all its amateur glory.
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