RUGBY is flourishing in the small Shropshire market town of Church Stretton where the local club has just clinched the Midlands Five West (North) title at the first time of asking.
The Church Stretton club was formed only two years ago by a group of enthusiasts and after a first season playing friendly matches they decided to enter the league structure 12 months ago.
The first season of competitive rugby could not have gone better for Church Stretton as they won 14 of their 16 league matches and beat more established clubs to take the title and secure promotion to Midlands Four West (North).
“I have taught rugby at Church Stretton School for 11 years so I knew that there were a lot of rugby players in the town,” said Martyn Longhurst, Church Stretton’s director of rugby.
“Some of them were travelling to play for other clubs in the area but some of them had stopped playing altogether.
“We thought if we could establish a club in the town it would keep them playing and would also keep them together.
“When we had our first trial session we thought that ten or 15 players might turn up but we got around 35 to 40.
“We had a lot of help from Scott Sturdy, the RFU Rugby Development Officer, from Shropshire in getting the club established.
“We played 19 friendly matches in our first season and our performances encouraged us to enter the leagues this season and that has gone better than we could have anticipated.”
Church Stretton have also established Under 19 and Under 17 teams and are now working on setting up an Under 15 team to ensure a supply of future senior players.
Church Stretton’s league title reflects a good season for rugby across Shropshire with county rivals Newport (Midlands One West), Bridgnorth (Midlands Two West North) and Clebury Mortimer (Midlands Four West South) also among the league winners.
Bridgnorth are also through to the RFU Intermediate Cup final at Twickenham on May 3 where they will face Maidstone having already secured the Midlands Intermediate Cup by beating Northampton Old Scouts.