Whitchurch coach Scott Sturdy hopes to keep the feel good factor in Shropshire rugby going by winning the North Midlands Cup for the first time in 16 years on Sunday May 10.
Whitchurch face higher-ranked Old Halesonians in the final at Dudley Kingswinford’s Heathbrook ground (3.30pm) looking to build on the success of county rivals Bridgnorth, Newport, Cleobury Mortimer and Church Stretton who all won their respective leagues this season.
Bridgnorth’s success in winning the Midlands Intermediate Cup and reaching the final of the RFU Intermediate Cup, where they were beaten by Maidstone at Twickenham last Sunday, has also helped to raise the profile of rugby in Shropshire.
In his day job, as an RFU Rugby Development Officer, Sturdy has been involved in growing the game at grassroots level in Shropshire and helping to improve facilities at clubs across the county.
“It has been a very good year for rugby in Shropshire in lots of different ways,” Sturdy said.
“There are a lot of Shropshire squads riding high but we have also got more colts and Under-17 teams playing rugby in the county now and we are growing the number of girls and women’s teams playing the game.
“We have an All Schools project coming to Telford which is quite exciting, the first in Shropshire. We have some great stuff happening facility-wise with Social Spaces at Oswestry and Telford which have made a massive difference to both those clubs.
“We have had new lights pop up at Shrewsbury and Oswestry are having new lights next year so it’s a very exciting time in Shropshire at the moment.”
If Whitchurch are to win the county cup they will have to bridge a one division gap on Old Halesonians, who won the North Midlands Shield in 2007, and overcome their pre-match status as underdogs.
“Getting to the final is a big thing for the club. We have done exteremely well to get to the final but we are massive underdogs going into this game,” Sturdy said.
“But there is a lot of belief in the squad. We have some quality players and training has gone extremely well.
“It’s a case of going there and trying to apply ourselves. We try to play a fast, free-flowing, expansive game and if we can do that for 80 minutes hopefully we can try to wear them down.”
Whitchurch will be without their player/forwards coach Jimmy Lloyd for the final as the Shropshire back row forward is way on holiday.
Old Halesonians will be without their captain and prop Richard Taylor because of a broken jaw sustained in the recent league match against Bournville. Louis Padian will take Taylor’s place in the front row.
“It’s the first time that we have got to the final of this competition so it’s a big thing for us,” said Old Halesonians’ manager Simon Hussey.
“We finished fifth in the league this season which was a real eye opener for us. I think we are comfortable with the level we are playing at and we are now looking to rebuild for next season.
“If we could win the North Midlands Cup that would be the pinnacle of our season.”
Bridgnorth will also be in action at North Midlands Finals Day at Dudley Kingswinford when they take on Kidderminster Carolians in the North Midlands Shield final (1.30pm).
Bridgnorth will be seeking to win the trophy for a third consecutive season but will not be eligible for the competition next season having secured promotion to Midlands One West which means that they will have to compete in the North Midlands Cup.
In the North Midlands Vase Cleobury Mortimer will have the chance to add to their league title when they face Evesham in the final at 11.15am.
There are three more finals at Dudley Kingswinford on Sunday with a Plate competitions for sides beaten in the early rounds of the Cup, Shield and Vase.
Dudley Kingswinford will play Bromsgrove in the North Midlands Cup Plate at 3.30pm, Old Saltleians face Woodrush in the North Midlands Shield Plate at 1.30pm and Redditch play Church Stretton in the North Midlands Vase Plate at 11.15am.
The Woodrush v Old Saltleians match will be preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of former Woodrush chairman Brian Smart who passed away earlier this week.