Honiton RFC coach speaks about the road ahead to what could be a glorious end to the current campaign!
PUBLISHED: 11:18 24 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:36 27 March 2019
Honiton head coach Nathan Hannay knows he has a job to do keeping his 1st XV squad fixed and focused, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
The Ton are involved in a three-way fight to the finish with Penryn and Bude for the two promotion places out of the Cornwall & Devon Division this season.
It was a four-way fight before Honiton knocked Plymstock Albion Oaks out of the running on the penultimate Saturday of March as they claimed a remarkable 35-20 win over them.
The remarkable part was that Honiton were 20-3 down at half-time. That win keeps Honiton second in the table behind leaders Penryn who stayed top courtesy of a walk-over win over Withycombe and Bude also won, without playing, as they had a walk-over win over Plymouth Argaum.
Honiton are already guaranteed a place in this season’s Devon Intermediate Cup final where they will face Plymstock.
In line with the Senior Cup and Senior Shield this season, league results against other Devon clubs are extrapolated into a ranking table, from which the top two play-off for the trophy.
Last, but certainly not least, Honiton are 80 minutes away from appearing in the Twickenham final of the RFU Senior Vase, They qualified for an Easter weekend semi-final against Portsmouth by winning 24-12 at Chesham earlier this month.
Hannay had hopes and aspirations for the club at the start of the season, his second in charge at Allhallows, hopes which could be exceeded.
His challenge is ensuring the players keep concentrating on winning matches rather than the plethora of silverware apparently in reach.
“As a coach it is my job to concentrate on one game at a time and not look too far ahead,” said Hannay.
“If you had told me at the start of the season we would be where we are now, I probably would not have believed you.”
A place in the Cornwall & Devon top three was Hannay’s realistic target at the start of the season with one eye on the Intermediate Cup.
Having seen rivals Saltash, Withycombe and South Molton all go to Twickenham in recent seasons in RFU competition finals, a cup run was also on the list.
“When we drew Penryn away first up we knew it was going to be hard as I would not have bet on us winning there,” said Hannay.
“Every round since then we have excelled and keep smashing expectations.”
In the two seasons since former Cornish All Blacks, Leeds, Eailing and Chinnor forward Hannay returned to his home-town club they have changed out of all recognition.
What had become an annual battle against relegation was turned into respectable fourth-place finish in year one. Year two has seen Honiton crash past 1,000 points scored in all competitions.
Hannay wanted to change the style of play and what was a gradual process has flourished this season.
The arrival of play-maker stand-off Alex Brooks from Cullompton in a dual player-coach role has definitely helped.
Honiton had to beat off interest from Taunton and Brixham to sign No.8 Harry Wright, who is back playing this year after a season off to concentrate on his studies.
Another former youth player thriving in the first team is scrum-half Jake Smith, who has returned to the Ton via university, a stint playing club rugby in Australia and a spell with Old Redcliffians.
However the season pans out, Hannay will be proud of his team.
“It has been a privilege working with the boys and seeing them grow as players,” said Hannay.
“We are in a position where what we achieve is in our hands and I hope we can finish the job in our final few games.”
Honiton are at home to South Molton this Saturday (March 30).