Before this season Halstead Templars RFC had never lifted a trophy — but they go into Saturday’s home Suffolk Chadacre Cup semi-final dreaming of taking another step towards a treble.
Now in their eighth campaign, since being formed by a group of friends ahead of the 2010/11 season, ex-Sudbury coach Neil Prentice’s side have already written a big piece of club history in the current campaign, having carried off the Suffolk Plate in November.
It was only that success which saw them qualify for the top tier of the county’s prize cup competition — which features teams from up to two leagues above them.
But after over-coming higher-league Haverhill in their own back yard in the quarter-finals last month (19-7), they now have the chance to defy their underdogs status again in front of their growing support base at Courtauld Sports Ground when Mersea Island visit in the last four on Saturday (2pm).
It comes as the side stand just one win away from sewing up their first ever league title, with three games to go in their Eastern Counties Greene King Division Two South season.
While the prestige of the Suffolk Cup has waned in recent years, with clubs increasingly fielding weaker sides and forfeiting matches, Halstead’s backs coach and full-back Ed Merry says there will not have been a bigger game for the club than this weekend’s cup clash, especially given the opposition.
“I would say it is the biggest we have had, in terms of what is at stake,” he said.
“The Plate final would have been up there but this one, especially with the history of losing in the Plate semi-finals to them in such dramatic fashion last year, means this is definitely the big one.”
Halstead were on the receiving end of their biggest ever defeat that day — an 86-0 thumping — meaning they feel they certainly have a point to prove this coming weekend.
“Everyone is very motivated, even the three or four new guys who were not involved can see how much it means to the players,” said Merry, who had left the field injured in that game along with their fly-half inside the first 20 minutes, leaving people playing out of position.
“We are very keen to show how different a side we have become. We are scoring freely now and not conceding many.
“We have developed tremendously over the last 15 months and everyone is hoping to show what that looks like in a competitive game.”
While former Colchester First XV player Merry accepts making the final against a side who play in the Essex Canterbury Jack Division 1A — a level higher than themselves — will be ‘incredibly tough’ he believes they are capable of causing another upset.
But they will have to do it without influential lock and vice-captain Ivan Fellowes, who is set to make his first start for the England Deaf side against their Welsh counterparts at Ilkley Rugby Football Club on Saturday (1pm), having previously been included as a replacement.
“We are so proud of him going on to play for England,” said Merry.
“He will be a huge loss for us, but we would not change it for the world.”
The Templars tightened their grip on the Division Two South title with a hard-fought home contest against Harwich & Dovercourt, which was considerably closer than the 49-12 scoreline suggests.
Oli Cuthbert and Sam Edwards (2) put down the three first-half tries that had Halstead 21-12 ahead at the interval.
Four more followed in the second half via flanker Callum Smith, Cuthbert for his second, leading scorer Matt Harwood and Edwards to complete his hat-trick on the day.