Honiton at Twickenham - Player-coach confident there'll be no 'stage fright'
PUBLISHED: 08:56 02 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 05 May 2019
Honiton player-coach Nathan Hannay is confident his side won't be struck down by stage-fright when they face Northallerton at Twickenham on Sunday in the final of the RFU Junior Vase, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
There is no bigger stage in English rugby than Twickenham and only a tiny fraction of club players ever step out there.
Hannay, who has been there as a coach but never a player, accepts it is the biggest match almost all the team will play in.
What Hannay won't accept is the prize of playing at Twickenham is enough.
“I understand all the stuff about getting there being a big achievement and being the pinnacle of players' careers, but we are not finished yet,” said Hannay.
“If you start with the attitude we have done well to get there, you are preparing yourself to settle for second best.
“I don't want anyone feeling stage-fright when they get out there. When you strip everything away it is still a game of rugby and we are in the business of winning rugby matches.
“Play at our best and winning at Twickenham really would make it the greatest day in the history of our club.”
Six coachloads of supporters will be cheering Honiton on against the Yorkshire men, aided and abetted by numerous groups of travelling followers going up by car, train and mini-bus.
The Lacemen's friends at Honiton Town FC are sending a mini-bus of supporters up to the game. And the town crier will be hollering the odds from the stands in his full regalia.
The big games have kept coming for Honiton over the past few months as cup ties were chalked off, promotion from the Cornwall & Devon Division won and the Devon Intermediate Shield claimed by defeating Plymstock Albion Oaks 46-7 at Allhallows last Saturday.
“There has been something on every game we have played and it is a challenge to keep lifting the players for the next one,” said Hannay.
“Something tells me lifting the players for the last one won't be a problem.”
Hannay, who had nearly a decade on the professional circuit at Championship and National One level, has not run out at Twickenham before.
While playing for Leeds he coached West Leeds to the 2015 Twickenham final of the same competition.
Tom Steer, who joined Honiton midway through the season, has a Twickenham appearance under his belt for Withycombe from 2016 when they lost to West Leeds, who had been losers the year before.
Alex Brooks, who is one of Hannay's assistant player-coaches, has two Twickenham finals in his scrapbook. He was a winner with Exeter College U18s in the 2005 Daily Mail Cup final and also with Cullompton in 2009 in the EDF Vase.
Team news from the Honiton camp ahead of the game is that wing Will Tyres has got over the shoulder injury that prevented him playing against Plymstock and will be in the 22-man squad.
Jason Hannay, the coach's older brother, has announced he will be retiring after the final