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Old Elthamians RFC Gain Promotion to National One

Sunday, 28 May, 2017 -- Helen Wilson

"A remarkable end to a remarkable season" was how Director of Rugby Gavin Lach described Old Elthamians’ record-breaking 2016/17 campaign.

Few, if any, who witnessed the nerve-shredding climax to the closest National Two South promotion race in league rugby history would argue with his assertion.

In a three-horse title race alongside Chinnor and Bishop’s Stortford for most of the season, Elthamians looked to have blown their promotion hopes when a narrow home defeat to Chinnor in March saw them drop out of the all-important top two with just six matches of the campaign remaining.

It left Lach’s men with a mountain to climb, needing to win all their remaining games with maximum points and hoping their rivals would somehow slip up.

Fortunately, they had saved their best for last and romped to five emphatic victories, including a club record 97-7 thrashing of Exmouth. With Chinnor crucially losing at Clifton, the promotion race came down to the final Saturday of the regular season with the two promotion rivals level on points, a bonus point victory would send OE's up the M1 the following week!

On a glorious afternoon at College Meadow in front of their largest ever home crowd of near a thousand, Elthamians raced to a comfortable 68-21 victory over Barnstaple which, in a season of fine margins, secured Lach’s men the runners-up spot by virtue of having recorded one more victory than Chinnor during the course of the season.

It also booked Elthamians’ place in the play-off against National Two North runners-up Sale FC with a coveted place in National One at stake.

6 May 2017 will go down as the most memorable day in the club’s 106-year history. Four hundred OEs supporters made the five-hour journey up to Manchester, in a crowd close to two thousand, to watch their side hold off a second half bombardment from a multi-talented Sale side to win an energy-sapping play-off 19-14 and secure their place in the promised land of National One next season.

It was Elthamians’ fifth promotion in the last eight seasons and will go down as undoubtedly their greatest achievement to date. There will be no resting on laurels, however. Preparations are already well in hand for the club’s first ever foray into the rarefied atmosphere of National One and the challenge of facing the likes of Coventry, Rosslyn Park, Esher, Plymouth and Blackheath – some of British rugby’s most established and best known strongholds, and an Old Boys that eight seasons ago few, if any, had heard of from North Kent!

The incredible journey continues!