Doing your training in the bar is one of rugby”s oldest jokes but for Strathmore RFC it was the truth as they battled through a rough winter to maintain their promotion challenge and get the huge bonus of a trip to Finals Day at Murrayfield.
The Strathmore squad who will contest the Regional Bowl final at Murrayfield.
Strathie meet North Berwick in the final of the SRU Regional Bowl as the curtain-raiser to club rugby’s gala day at the national stadium and it could be the culmination to an outstanding season for the Forfar club well nearly, as they still have as many as six league games yet to play between now and mid-May.
The appalling winter meant constant cancellations and postponements for the first XV but Dave Brown, who returned to Inchmacoble as head coach this season, said the club spirit engendered by a conscious decision to go with local players kept them going.
“We have a gym facility, we found facilities wherever we could and we sometimes cleared the tables in the clubhouse bar and did work there,” he said. “The important thing was that even when the conditions were awful and there was no prospect of a game we did something every week of the season.”
That club spirit is founded on all but two of the players in Saturday’s starting team coming from the Strathmore area, the exceptions being the strike-runners Brad McKenzie a teenage New Zealander who works at Belmont Outdoor Centre and Niall Lear, a teacher at Lathallan School.
The club has benefited from imports in the past-player, coach and now president Jason Leslie has been a huge influence at Inchmacoble since arriving a decade ago. However, the developing seedcorn from the club’s successful youth programme has allowed them to do without outside help.
“First the Angus Colts and now the Strathie Sharks have been vital for the club, not just in bringing through many of the players now in the team but in revitalising it all,” he said. “Parents bring their kids and then they come and support the club as well.”
Only 22 out of a competitive squad can change for the big game but there looks like being two main disappointments through injury.
Scrum-half Gary Wood has a groin strain and may not be risked with so many league games still to play and the crunch meeting with Orkney, currently topping Caledonia Division One, still to come.
Back rower Stevie Knox is the other man cursing his luck and doubly so, as he missed out through injury on two previous Bowl finals when he was with Perthshire.
The club are taking four busloads to Murrayfield and cancelled the club ball in the Reid Hall in Forfar on Saturday night, as so many volunteers wanted to go.
Instead, there will be a party at the Inchmacoble clubhouse, win or lose.