A number of rugby clubs in the borough appear to be thriving and this season has witnessed a host of promotions and cup wins, writes James Sayer.
At the weekend this success was highlighted by the results of the county cup competitions in which Twickenham RFC triumphed in the Middlesex Cup, while Richmond RFC successfully defended the Surrey Cup.
Speaking to the Times, Jim Peters, a vice-president of Twickenham RFC, agreed that the rugby being played within the borough is of an increasingly high standard.
"The standard of clubs in the borough is very high because they all seem to be getting promoted," he said. "In this area there are so many good clubs and the standard is very competitive. Having played at a sustained high level all season, you can only get better."
Of his team's season, which saw Twickenham defeat London Wasps, London Nigerians and finally London Scottish en route to the Middlesex Cup, Peters was thrilled and remained confident for the coming season. He said: "We are delighted. It marks the end of a very hard season in which the team have trained hard and although they suffered through injury at the beginning of the season, finished fifth in London Two.
"We are very satisfied to have consolidated our position in our first season in this league and to be attracting a number of good players to the club. We also have a nucleus of good players who have risen through the youth ranks and remained with the club."
General manager of Richmond RFC, Andrew Gordon, having seen his club clinch a league and cup double on Sunday, concurred that clubs in the area are continually improving. He said: "If you look around the London leagues there are some clubs that are exceptional and run away with their leagues. But in general I would think that the standard of club rugby is getting better as training and coaching facilities are improving all the time."
Looking ahead to next season, Gordon was pleased with his side's promotion, but this was tempered by the belief that Richmond still languish in a league far lower than their ability merits. He added: "Next season I don't expect there to be a significant difference in standard from London 4 South West. We are obviously delighted to be moving up, but at the same time feel we are capable of holding are own in more exalted company than London 3 South West."
In addition to these cup endeavours, a band of clubs in the Richmond borough have also made great strides to secure promotion from their respective London leagues.
London Scottish, who groundshare with Richmond at The Athletic Ground, and were runners up to Twickenham in the Middlesex Cup Final, secured promotion to London 3 North West in their final game of the season, finishing as champions of London 4 North West, having amassed 533 points, whilst conceding only 214.
The two available promotion places in London 4 South West were also filled by sides in the borough. Richmond RFC finished convincing and undefeated champions, while Barnes RFC finished runners up to secure a passage into London 3 South West in their most successful season with a record of just three defeats, two against Richmond, and having posted a total of 963 points, with just 289 against.
Barnes club captain, Neil Hay, a stalwart of the club for 16 years, attributed much of Barnes' success this season to the atmosphere engendered throughout the club's sides.
"In my years with Barnes we have been promoted five times, relegated once, lost our ground and clubhouse and have spent seasons on the brink of survival," he said.
"However, I can honestly say that throughout that time I have never enjoyed a season more on or off the pitch than this one. This was due to not only the 1st XV's success in gaining promotion, but to all four, and occasionally five, Barnes sides performing well and contributing to a great club atmosphere."
In the Herts/Middlesex 1 division, there was further good news for the borough, with Old Hamptonians promoted in second place, while Chiswick-based Civil Service clinched top spot.
However, in the higher echelons of the game, Roehampton-based side Rosslyn Park, lying just outside the borough, suffered the heartache of relegation from National Division Two and must now look to bounce back from National Division Three South next season.
April 25, 2002 17:30
Richmond & Twickenham Times