Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: Northern Look for Another Foothold on Their Long Climb Back from the Abyss; REGIONAL ROUND-UP

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: Northern Look for Another Foothold on Their Long Climb Back from the Abyss; REGIONAL ROUND-UP

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK DOUGLAS

AFTER three relegations and a brief and disastrous flirtation with semi-professionalism, the future looked bleak for Northern RFC a decade ago - but a proud North East rugby club is hoping to take a decisive stride along the comeback trail tomorrow, writes MARK DOUGLAS.

The Gosforth-based club take on Ilkley in their promotion play-off (kick off, 3pm) eyeing promotion to North East Division Two - a sign they are ready to return to the rugby map after a decade spent mostly in the sporting wilderness.

Since their dark days the club have risen and, after going close to the play-offs last year, they have gone one step further this time and clinched the runner-up slot which gives them a crack at earning promotion from Durham and Northumberland One.

Chairman of rugby George Longstaff, who stepped in to help rescue the club from the abyss along with Andy James, believes victory would be a significant sign of progress at McCracken Park.

"After what happened eight years ago, when we tried to go semiprofessional, it has taken us a long, long time to turn it around, but this shows that we're on our way back," he said. "It's a massive game - as big as any we have had in our last six or seven years and winning it would be so important to us.

"But Ilkley are another side with a good tradition and we know it won't be an easy challenge for us. I went to see them to check on their progress and they looked like they've got a very good side as well."

By virtue of their superior league record Northern have earned the right to play the game at their McCracken Park ground - something that Longstaff believes could be a big advantage if they can attract a big crowd.

He is also keeping a nervous eye on the weather conditions, believing that rain could hit his fast and mobile squad's chances.

"We're quick and mobile, as opposed to Ilkley who are a bigger side, and it would certainly put us at a disadvantage if the conditions were too slow. …

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