Old Emanuel RFC first XV captain Jamie Clarke believes his side can continue progressing up the leagues after clinching a third promotion in four seasons.
The New Malden rugby union club beat New Milton on April 7 to earn promotion from London Division Three South — their second promotion in a row after winning the Surrey Division One title last year.
The rest of the club also enjoyed great success this season with the second team in the play-off places and two of the junior sides gearing up for cup semi-finals.
Captain Clarke, the side’s highest appearance maker this season, said: “I thought this year would be more challenging, in terms of the results.
“I think everyone has stepped up, the first team, the seconds, the management, the whole club has stepped up a gear, we are in the London leagues now and we will aim to get into division one.
“It might be that it’s not an automatic promotion, it’s something we have to build towards but we have kicked on every time we have been promoted so I’ve got confidence in our ability to do it again.”
The club missed out on securing the league title after a 40-19 loss to Portsmouth RFC on Saturday in their final game of the season, with the honours instead going to Old Cranleighans.
Clarke praised the contribution of players Charlie and Harry Whiteley who have been a huge part in the first team’s attacking line, with the former the first team’s top try scorer and the latter the top points scorer.
The Beverley Way club also boast a fantastic back-line with the best defence in the league, conceding just 317 points this season.
The club grew out of the Emanuel School 107 years ago, taking on ex-schoolboys until opening themselves up to the community during the last decade.
Clarke said: “What makes our club is that we are inclusive. I wouldn’t want to play for somewhere that wasn’t accepting of everyone.”
He continued: “We have tried to go down the route of a one club mentality, not just focus on the first fifteen, we also look at the seconds and thirds.”
The club’s long-time director of rugby Fergus McCarthy and his wife Penny, who is the club chairwoman, will be stepping down at the end of the season.
Justin Latter will be replacing McCarthy as director of rugby, moving on from his position as club captain.
McCarthy said: “It has always been a happy club and over the last few years it has probably been a bit happier.
“Everybody is welcome here and everybody plays, from the senior to the junior and minis, everybody plays.”
He continued: “There will be guys we are playing against getting some payments but we are still in it for the love of the game, we don’t pay any players at all, that’s not on the horizon or in any budgets.”
The club will celebrate a fantastic 2017/2018 season at the Old Emanuel Rugby Dinner on the April 21, with some 240 guests in attendance at their home ground Blagdons.
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