Play-off gives Diss chance to bounce straight back up
- Credit: Archant
Redemption and celebration await for the players of Diss Rugby Club – if they can complete a remarkable turnaround in fortunes in their promotion play-off at Mackenders tomorrow (3pm).
The south Norfolk side slipped out of London One North last season after finishing second from bottom, having won just three matches all season.
It brought an end to a stay of three years in the top tier of Eastern Counties rugby, which had been preceded by two years in National Three London and South East.
The blue and whites found their feet after a shaky start to this season and finished in rampant form, winning nine of their last 10 matches to finish second in the table.
Now they have their sights set on Chiswick, runners-up in London 2NW, as they look to bounce back to London 1N at the first time of asking and to resume battle with Norfolk rivals North Walsham.
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'That was what we wanted, to go straight back up,' club captain Giles West said. 'We missed our chance against Chelmsford (losing 27-18 away last month), although that was a close game.
'So this is our second bite of the cherry and hopefully we can convert that into getting promotion.'
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The drop meant Diss joined Norwich and Holt in London 2NE for this season – with three defeats in their opening five matches suggesting that may be where they would stay.
'We didn't have any pre-season games because they were called off, so it took a while for us to gel I suppose, but once we did we started to play quite well,' West continued. 'There's been a lot more stability as we've gone on.
'It's been very tough, there are some good sides in the top half of the table, it's been very competitive. It's been good playing Norwich and Holt though, as well as some of the other teams we don't usually play.
'It looked like Norwich were going to be the ones putting on the pressure but we managed to stay ahead of them.'
Chiswick will arrive in high spirits tomorrow, after winning 16 of their matches in London 2NW, one less than Diss managed in London 2NE.
The west Londoners finished their league campaign with four wins and a draw in their last five matches and are sure to provide a tough test.
'They are pretty much on a par with us so it's obviously going to be a tough game,' West added.
'They're going to be all guns blazing for it but we've got home advantage, which is going to be massive, we've got to take advantage of that.
'We're confident, but you can't get over-confident. We've just got to keep playing our pattern and play the way we have been playing this season.
'We've got an experienced, strong side, so there should be no excuses for not doing that.'
First-team coaches Roger Coombs and David Smith hope to select a full-strength side, with centre Joshua Ludkin and experienced prop Tim Groom due for late fitness tests.
The season then concludes with the Norfolk Senior Cup final against North Walsham – who beat Diss in the final last season – at Mackenders on Sunday, May 3.
Diss team v Chiswick: 15 Matt Trede, 14 Tom Holt, 13 Warren Wilby, 12 Joshua Ludkin. 11 Giles West (club captain), 10 Jack Peacock, 9 Jamie Burroughs; 1 Matt Richards, 2 Chris Craven, 3 Tim Groom, 4 John Bergin, 5 Paul Cayley, 6 Michael Fuller, 7 Fraser Hall (captain), 8 John Laurie. Replacements: 16 Matt Cullum, 17 Peter Bray, 18 Jack Keppel.