What a memorable season it has been. League and Essex Senior Cup champions and all targets achieved. The club’s goal was to become league champions and reach the highest level that Rochford have ever been.
Following on from the previous season’s promotion and winning all their league matches Director of Rugby Chris Green and his coaching staff set out a plan of action and the recruitment of some additional good quality players such as Harry Hudson, Chris Shields, Jody Allen, Cameron Greenhall and others that only enhanced the already strong squad.
All expectations were far exceeded as this remarkable squad gelled and went through the whole campaign winning all league games with bonus points and comprehensively beating Brentwood to become Essex Senior Cup champions.
After a successful preseason with warm up with games against Lydney, Chinnor and Harpenden ,Rochford opened their league campaign with a 74 -0 win at home against Amersham and Chiltern and finished the first half of the season with a pleasing win against local rivals Southend notching up a 44-0 victory in front of a very large crowd at Magnolia Road.
During this period Rochford played some of the most exciting rugby ever seen at the club with big wins against all opposition and particularly Ruislip 127 – 0 and Luton 101-5. Probably the most satisfactory wins were against Colchester away 27 – 10 and North Walsham 29 – 10 at home who were the club’s closest rivals throughout.
The second half of this terrific campaign started with a hard-fought win against H.A.C. over at Chiswick and, although never really reaching the heights of the pre- Christmas games the boys won each game with ease. The two real exceptions were a most testing encounter in deepest Norfolk where Rochford were taken to the wire but eventually managed to survive with a 24 – 23 bonus point win against probably the best other team in the league North Walsham.
The other hard-fought victory was at home against Old Haberdashers but still won 36- 28 after a very competitive match.
The icing on the cake was at Thurrock when the Rochford All Blacks, back to almost full strength after a number of injury problems since Christmas, thrashed National Division 3 outfit Brentwood 71- 7 to become Essex Cup holders.
From a stats point of view the highest points scorer was new signing Cameron Greenhall from Ipswich with 261 points. Cameron was a player that had to work his way into the team and overcame some injury problems to become one of our most successful and popular players.
The second highest points scorer was captain Harry Hudson, who once had settled in, became a powerhouse scoring 26 tries and always led by example. He was also joint holder of the most games played with the impressive hooker Adam Ferrier on 24 games.
Another Ferrier, brother William who came from Chelmsford was another success and the more he played the better he became. Losing influential second row Luke Court-Rhind at the beginning of the season was a blow but he was replaced by his fellow New Zealander, man mountain, Jody Allen who added to the power of the Rochford forward unit.
Talking of the forwards, which were the anchor all season for Rochford’s success, I would like to mention the contribution of forward coach and the highly experienced and powerful Michael Guess who played in 21 games and was always a big influence on others around him. Craig Strachan when not recovering from injury was another player whose contribution was inspirational to others. Another influential player was Jamie Douglas who stepped in to the second row and his work rate and power all season was terrific.
Chris Shields grew in statue the more he played and James Kellard, following on from his massive influence last year carried on doing the business using his vast experience and knowledge to steady the ship when needed. Stuart Whatling, as he did last season, put in good consistent performances in his 17 games.
The scrum half position was shared between the youthful Ricky Gould and Veteran Steven Jay and both contributed immensely throughout the campaign.
In the backs a special mention to long standing Rochford stalwart Matt. Stewart who has worked so hard to maintain his centre position and has benefited so much from it. Another player to impress has been centre Sonny Gay who had to fight injury to come back and impose himself in so many games.
The talented and remarkable full back Mark Billings was another who was not able to play in more matches due to injury, but he is a man that when on the field anything can happen and has wonderful skills. He gives the team an extra dimension when he plays.
Other quality players we acquired during the season were Ian Meads, a fast and elusive runner, big Sam Nash and Chris Dudman from Westcliff. All excellent players who added extra options as the campaign progressed. Young Alfie Justice came through in the latter part of the season and showed that he could be a force in the future.
There are others like prop Lewis Brunger who came from Bishops Stortford and his power up front complimented the strong front row that played every week and were the foundation of our powerful pack. Another long-playing Rochford man was Tom Corbet who blessed us with his talent but was limited in appearances due to family problems. We all wish him well.
One more player to mention is that character Sam Fombo who is such a formidable player with his lineout and loose play and is head and shoulders above most of the opposition he confronts. His mere presence on the pitch is often enough to intimidate the opposition.
I cannot mention everybody but will highlight the massive Contribution of the young and talented contingent of See Vic. Lads such as Josh Hurley, Josh Ridgway, Dan Sowter and Mark Ikihfa who have played a big part in our success.
If I have not covered every player who has played such a part in the team’s and club’s success this and last season, I apologise but they know who they are and thank you.
Once again, I give praise to people such as the ever-youthful John Branch who still keeps putting together tired bodies to go out each week for more punishment.
Adam Faherty, again, has played an important part with his organisation and knowhow and has, as always, been a great help to me. Thanks, Kevin Anderson, for his tireless work with fixtures and touch line duties which are sometimes a thankless task but are so important.
Thanks to the officials of the club and Chairman Peter Van Den Breck who works so hard for this club we love and his efforts are much appreciated .To Chris ,Danny Cleare and all his coaching staff a massive thank you for helping to mould those talented individuals into an impressive and successful outfit.
It must, also, be very satisfying for Vice Chairman and ex Rochford captain Wayne Seaby to see his dream of his club becoming a major player in Essex rugby take shape and we all thank him for his continued support.
Lastly a big thank you to all our loyal supporters who are there for the team in all weathers and locations to encourage them on to better things.
A big and interesting challenge next season and one we all really look forward to going into pastures new.
Updated 19:31 - 8 May 2019 by Adam Faherty