BRIDGNORTH will make their bow at Twickenham in the RFU Intermediate Cup final on May 3 a year after their director of rugby Dale Smallman thought their chance of playing at HQ had gone.
Bridgnorth were beaten by Leek in the Midlands final of last season’s RFU Intermediate Cup but they clinched the regional title by beating Northampton Old Scouts last month and booked a national final meeting with Maidstone by beating Scarborough 10-6 in a titanic struggle in yesterday’s semi-final at Silver Royd.
“This will be my second year back with the club. I didn’t think I was going to go back into coaching if I am honest,” said Smallman.
“I had travelled up and down the country for years and I thought that was it for me. I thought I would just do my development coaching.
“But I went down to the game against Wolverhampton a couple of years ago and they beat Bridgnorth 28-0. I thought there was something here if we could just get the lads together and bring in a couple of lads who are Bridgnorth lads.
“Who would have thought two years down the line we have got to Twickenham? I thought our chance was last year, I really did.
“I thought when we lost in the Midlands final that our chance had gone.
Wing Will Biddell scored all of Bridgnorth’s points with an early try which he converted followed by a penalty from close to the halfway line. Having established a 10 points lead, Bridgnorth had to defend heroically to deny Scarborough despite having four players sin-binned and playing part of the second half with 13 men.
“As we were getting yellow cards it became more and more of a challenge to get the ball with a bit of width and to play our game,” Smallman said.
“There was a set of eight scrums in injury time in the first half right on our line, we went down to 14 men and how we kept them out was a fantastic performance.”
Although Bridgnorth have never played at Twickenham before, Smallman has been there before as part of the Dudley Kingswinford coaching team that finished as runners-up in the 1999 Intermediate Cup final.
“This is extra special, to do it with my home town club, the place where I started in the mini and junior section years ago it really is very special,” he said.
“The lads are all Bridgnorth lads so I have seen these players develop over the years, some from afar initially, and then being involved in their development. To see them come together and play on that stage was fantastic.
“What is really important is this is about the town. It was really humbling to run out yesterday in front of 300 or 400 Bridgnorth supporters who had travelled all the way up there. The noise was incredible.
“The players said that the support, the continuous shouting just to keep them going, was the 16th men. For eight minutes we were down to 13 men and we managed to hang in there.
“The final will be a great occasion for the whole town and the chance for the town to get behind the rugby club.”