Campion coach looks for top marks
PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 January 2014
Leaders ready to relaunch title bid
Campion look to relaunch their London Three North East title push in a home derby against Upminster today (Saturday).
The Cottons Park club went into the Christmas break with a two-point lead over rivals Old Cooperians at the top of the table and will be looking to complete a double over Upminster, following a 24-23 success at Hall Lane.
But coach Paul Larner expects another difficult test, saying: “Upminster could have nicked the home game against us earlier in the year, so it will be a tough game.
“I know they have had a tough year with injuries, but they are always hard to beat and are one of the teams that can get good away results.
“We will be wary of the threat that they have and we have limited time to prepare over the Christmas break.”
Campion went into the festive period in high spirits, though, after a superb first half to the campaign.
Beaten just once in 12 outings, by Cooperians, they have set their sights on further progress in 2014.
“I remember speaking to Coopers after we scrapped past them in October 2012 and saying it would have been as good as any games in London Three that week. I didn’t realise 15 months later we would both be at the top of London Three!” added Larner.
“It has been a great 18 months of rugby at Campion. We won Essex One at the first time of asking, going unbeaten for the season, and I know some in the club will be surprised to see us top of London Three.
“But the players are showing an ever-increasing commitment to each other and the club.
“We’re winning away games that we’ve never won before – at Wisbech, Sudbury and Cantabragians for example – and this is purely down to the players being responsible for each other.
“It is no coincidence that our upturn in fortunes on the pitch has been matched by a thriving social scene off of it, including the Las Vegas tour back in May. You can’t be successful on the pitch without the organisation of volunteers off it.
“At the same time we’ve been hugely impressed with the way Coopers have developed as well. I’ve no doubt victory against us was the springboard for their success, winning 10 on the bounce, and they are clearly a very well-coached side.
“They have managed to foster even closer ties to their school and we are looking to, as a result, develop our ties as well.
“As we become more successful we attract even more players back from the higher echelons of London and National League rugby, including Robert Gash and James Ngan, who have only played a handful of games but shown real class when they have played.”
Campion had to settle for a draw at Wanstead in their final outing of 2013, as the home side took advantage of some tired bodies to come from behind.
But Larner, who is deputy headteacher at William de Ferrers School, is hoping the three-week gap between games will have helped.
“We are striving to win the league, but Christmas came at a good time for us to get a few injured bodies fit again, including captain Dave Armstrong,” he said.
“The squad for the start of January is looking the strongest we’ve ever had, despite the fact we lost Luke Tilly last year to Australian rugby.
“Our side has a core of highly committed individuals who have a clear passion for our club and this makes a huge difference. Stalwarts like Stephen Canny and Luke Maguire provide a nucleus around which we can build for the future.
“These boys don’t need a lot of guidance or coaching, my job is just to ensure we know how we want to play each game and to keep making progress as individuals and as a team.
“Each of them know what they have to do to keep moving forward and if they continue to show the levels of commitment shown so far, the club will continue to thrive in 2014.
“It has been a pleasure to be the coach for the last 15 months and with continued commitment and hard work from the players the club will continue to thrive and progress.”
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