Rugby team is ready to tackle second half of league season

Belper v Leesbrook. number 14
Belper v Leesbrook. number 14

Belper RUFC 1sts embark on the second half of their Midlands Four East (North) season on Saturday with director of rugby Tony England feeling their form is showing a definite upward curve.

Belper are currently in fifth position in the table after 11 games, and they entertain Tupton on Saturday, who are third in the league.

After a rather stop-start beginning to the season, Tony England believes there has been a marked improvement since the appointment of a full-time coach, Joe Blackwell, just over two months ago.

He explained: “Joe was one of our players, but stepped up to full-time coach in late September/early October and since then it’s really settled down for us, as we hoped it would once we had a full-time coach in place.

“It’s been going well since then, and that’s down to consistency of performance and selection. Over the past six weeks or so, we’ve only used 18 or 19 players, which is brilliant and players are really growing into their roles.

“Where we’ve come up a bit short is perhaps through a lack of experience in the side but that will only improve as we all play more games together. We have quite a few talented young players coming through, which is great as they are the future of the club and we are delighted to see them making an impact.

“We feel we’ve got the blend of youth and experience just about right.

“We’re fifth in the league but we feel we can beat the teams above us on our day. We’ve got two early chances to put that into action because our first two games are against sides in the top three, so it’ll be tough but we’ll see how it goes.”

He picks the 59-0 victory at home to Bingham in early November as the best performance of the season so far.

“Bingham was probably the most pleasing display. We took everything that Bingham could throw at us and then attacked really well after showing excellent defence.

“We are a mobile team that likes to play running rugby and some teams in this league, who are bigger physically, don’t always allow us to play the type of game we like to play, so from now on it’s about how we address that in the second half of the season.

“We feel we are improving all the time and there’s more improvement to come from us, which is something to look forward to. We’re only two points off fourth place so there’s plenty to play for.”

Three players in particular have impressed the director of rugby so far. “Sam Chalkin is only 17. He came into firsts early on, dropped out again, but is back now at wing and full back and has seen such improvement that the NLD is tracking him for their age-range squad, so he’s really impressed.

“Simon Carter has really grown into role of first team skipper. He leads by example and his commitment and character are second to none. He’s been fantastic for the team and the club. And Keith Buzzard certainly deserves a mention for his consistency. He came into side from the 2nds and has performed well, week in week out.”

After this Saturday’s game at home to Tupton, Belper will be away to currently unbeaten league leaders Amber Valley for a local derby on January 11.