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Friday, 29 May 2015

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Tynedale battle for survival resumes

FOR decades, Tynedale Rugby Club has punched way above its weight on the national stage.


The concept of an essentially amateur club from a tiny village taking on and beating fully professional outfits from cities like London, Cambridge and Coventry sounds like something from a schoolboys’ comic.

But Tynedale have done it it year after year, their heady mix of farmers, students and market traders proving more than a match for the full timers.

They celebrated the Millennium by winning every game to clinch promotion, setting a new league record points total.

And in 2008, they did it again, winning National League Division Three North with five games to spare, in an almost perfect season, with just one draw and one defeat.

Success came at a price though, as for the first time, they moved away from regionalised rugby.

But remarkably they prospered, managing a succession of top six finishes before the wheels came loose last season, only a massive haul of bonus points saving their bacon

But now the dream could be over, as for the first time in their history, Tynedale are in danger of being relegated.

Just beyond the halfway stage of the season, they lie second bottom of National League Division One, a daunting 10 points away from safety.

They have won only three of their 16 games, and have already lost to one of the three sides they beat first time round – Blaydon.

A catalogue of injuries to key players has disrupted game plans.

They have 14 games left to save their skins, and the fightback begins tomorrow, when Old Albanians travel up from Hertfordshire.

The away game saw Tynedale go down 29-17, and they will be thirsting for revenge.

And thay have a welcome New Year present with the return from long-term injury of skipper Jack Harrison, and broken jaw victim Hamish Smales.

On the debit side, Chris Harris is out for the season with a shoulder injury which requires surgery.

The game kicks off at 2pm.

Despite the club’s plight, chairman of senior rugby John Shotton remains bullish about Tynedale’s prospects for survival at this level.

He said: “We’re only at the halfway mark, and with some senior players back, we are more than capable of getting out of trouble, starting with five points tomorrow.

“Few clubs could have coped with the injuries we have had this season, but we certainly won’t be giving up without a fight.”