Sheffield Rugby Club are celebrating after securing promotion into National Three North and setting up the prospect of fiery derbies with city ‘enemies,’ Sheffield Tigers next season after a thrilling victory in the promotion play-off at Kirkby Lonsdale last weekend.
Head coach Adam Byron, 33, watched on nervously as his side clung onto a 35-29 win over their Cumbrian opponents, who had lost just four of their 26 matches this season to earn home advantage for the play-off clash.
The Abbeydale club looked to have wrapped up the game at half-time going into the break 20-7 up after two penalty kicks from full back Andy Hodgson, a try from centre Ben Parker and a penalty try.
But the home side scored two tries shortly after the break and it was only thanks to tries from second row Alex Fawdry, and Dave Bradford with four minutes to go, after the hosts had pulled it back to 30-29, that secured the win.
Adam, who took over in January 2014 said: “It was horrific watching and was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. But what a way to end an amazing season and the boys dug deeper than they ever have before – especially in the last 10 minutes when we were camped on our own try line.
“I’m so proud of what we have achieved considering we were on the brink of relegation from the division when I took over. What a turn around and I want to see this commitment to hard work and dedication continue.”
The Director of rugby at Birkdale is confident his side can survive in a higher division after showing great resilience and character to win the play-off and has stressed that the side will be retaining most of this year’s victorious squad whilst also looking to strengthen the team.
And the Abbeydale outfit can take great pride into their next league campaign after finishing their season unbeaten at home – a record last matched 90 years ago, finishing with the best defensive record in North One East and surpassing the 100 try mark in the gripping play-off final.
“We’ve broken so many records, it has been a magical season,” explained the former Sheffield backs coach.
“I’m delighted most of the squad are staying so we will just be looking for a few players to add to what already is a fantastic side. ”
The blue and whites should now face city rivals Tigers next season for the first time in eight years, unless they are placed in the Midlands league with a decision to be announced soon.
This thrilling prospect is felt particularly in the Pearson family as Jimmy, 36, skipper of Sheffield and cousin Nick, 32, captain of Tigers may come face to face on the pitch.
“We are very close and this is a scenario we used to dream about when we were kids. I really hope we are in the same league - what a spectacle it will be once more for the city,” said Jimmy a former Tigers player.
“There will be a lot of spice in the game and all niceties between friends will be lost on the pitch but we mustn’t get carried away with the rivalry because every game will be incredibly tough for us.”
Nick, who has just commpleted his eighth season for Tigers, after a one year spell at Sheffield, added: “I’m really happy for Sheffield and hope they do well in the league but this will be forgotten come the starting whistle on derby day.
“The two teams are great friends as players move to and from each club. But when we play each other the bitter rivalry will certainly return. “Tigers will be going out for the double over Sheffield and we’ll need to if we’re challenging for the title.”
The Dore club, who have ‘ruled the roost,’ in the city over the past few years, will go into their next league campaign unbeaten in 2015 and boasting the best defensive record after conceding just 398 points.
Sheffield vice-captainTommy Marples is relishing the prospect and is looking to knock his ‘enemy,’ off their perch. I can’t wait for that game.”