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The fearless Lancaster Rugby Union first XV have hit their optimum peak at the perfect time. With Roses less than three months away, the Cats will quietly have one eye on the headline slot against long-term rivals York, while the other remains transfixed upon a prospective league and cup double. Following a comfortable victory over struggling Liverpool thirds and a cup quarter-final win over Bangor, Lancaster are currently six games away from completing an unprecedented trophy double. With that in mind the mood in Lancaster’s camp is verging on the euphoric as their season reaches its climax. Compare to last year’s form of six wins seven losses (in the league) and this year’s campaign of 10-0, and the reality of just how well the first XV are performing becomes vastly illuminating.
The crux of Lancaster’s successes can in-part be rewarded to their newly acquired coach, Fergus Owens. By enlisting a much-needed coach into the set-up all of the indirect needs; dietary, fitness, and tactics were able to develop under Owens’s astute gaze. Speaking to the returning player and now Captain of the first team, Ollie Vidgeon, he commended the impact the new coach has made telling SCAN “the results are reflected not only in our fully structured and re-organised training schedule, but our pre-match preparations, nutrition and general attitude towards being a rugby player.” All practices instilled by the new coach.
Vidgeon went on to another of the main factors behind the rugby clubs present form, the squads change in mind-set -“we no longer see ourselves as just a social rugby club, we see ourselves as professional sportsmen who are proud to represent the university.” Going on to evoke Owens as an “invaluable asset to the club” Vidgeon spoke of the squad’s tireless work ethic in regards to fitness, which has ultimately been reflected in some huge scores across the board – evidenced by a point difference of 244, over double that of the first XV’s closest rivals!
Chairman of the Rugby Club Arthur Haynes further told SCAN of the desire and hunger for rugby at the start of September which gave “depth in the club providing healthy competition for each and every position, encouraging everyone to work for their place from the outset.” This improved depth has put a value on starting positions which has made for a very competitive group of players.
While a structure and a more focused attitude to proceedings were definitely needed, the players too should be commended for their efforts. Vidgeon heralded the fresher intake as being “one of the best” speaking of Elliot Burton, Tomas Moreira, Sam Ackers and Lewis Cornelius as first years who “really made their mark and will be fantastic, future leaders.” The dominance in certain key areas also provides a convincing indicator of the team’s achievements; Haynes spoke of the “solidity of a strong pack growing in confidence as well as blooming partnerships throughout the team” – all aspects which have tightened an already close-knit group of players, which have been able to reap the rewards in the process.
Despite Lancaster not having the biggest of teams the strength and fitness has enabled the Cats to play some fantastic, exciting rugby throughout the entirety of matches – an area which captain Vidgeon specifically earmarked as an ambition at the beginning of the season. The firsts have definitely profited from a greater focus, attitude and desire exemplified by their current league and cup standings, which will prove invaluable momentum-wise as the impending York, Roses fixture draws nearer.
Throughout the squad, all three teams have stepped up a level. Their commitment, capacity to train harder than ever while accomplishing the results to match, has been helped greatly by the squad’s incessant belief and determination to not settle for second best. All three XV’s have gained varying successes this year; the firsts top, the seconds third and the thirds fourth – all improvements from last year’s positions. With the results to follow this year’s increased development, the whole club have become a unit, a wrecking ball of destruction – something to be feared.
It’s certainly refreshing to hear the intensity and commitment from notable members of the Rugby Club, to back-up the club’s recent run of form. Following the questionable events in 2011 which shone a detrimental light on the club, it is no question in my mind where their focus now lies. As Roses and the potential for silverware approaches, mark their words, the Lancaster Cats will be ready. Haynes encapsulated the mood of where the Rugby Union Club currently is at – as they look ahead to the showdown at Roses – with a resonant analogy: “At present we’re simmering nicely, but make no mistake: by kick off on the May 3rd we’ll be boiling.” While heartache has plagued the rugby club’s recent Roses endeavours, let’s hope this is the year for the Men’s Rugby Union Club to re-write the record books – they certainly have the spirit, attitude and form to do so.