BLAYDON have ended the season with success right down the ranks, winning the Durham County Cup at second, third and fourth team level as well as equalling their highest ever league finish.
Club secretary Jim Huxley points much of the credit in Micky Ward’s direction, with the Newcastle Falcons icon completing his first season as director of rugby with his team placed seventh in SSE National One – English rugby’s third tier.
Huxley said: “Micky has bonded the club together, and for the first time that I can remember one club has won the second, third and fourth team Durham County Cups.
To the best of my knowledge no-one has ever done that before, and it is an incredible achievement for us.
“We had a presentation dinner at the weekend which Micky organised, and it was very much a collective thing with all the respective teams fully involved.
“It has been our best season ever at junior level, and the first team have been strong as well. We have introduced some youngsters to the side, and they have been excellent.”
A remarkable Saturday saw Blaydon lift the Second Teams Cup with a 49-5 win over Darlington Mowden Park – notable particularly because they led by the same score at half-time before a second 40 minutes which saw neither side registering a single point.
Only 18 sides lie between Blaydon’s first team and Newcastle Falcons in the league ladder after a 56-7 rout of Barking on Saturday which produced seven tries for the hosts – two for Robbie Kalbraier who has the rare honour of being the club’s top scorer despite playing at prop-forward.
“At the beginning of the season Micky and others thought we were top six material, but we have finished seventh and equalled our previous best position,” said Huxley.
“In doing so we got more points this season, and all told Micky has done a tremendous job.
“Our leading try-scorer is a prop with 13 tries which is an absolutely brilliant effort, and lads like Rob Bell and Matt Clark are also into double figures.
“It has been an all-round team performance, and not one built around a small number of stars.
“A huge amount of hard work has gone in, and I think Blaydon are punching above their weight now.”
Praising the management style of Ward, who was last year awarded a testimonial game at Newcastle Falcons after 14 seasons as a professional, Huxley added: “Micky is incredibly down to earth, and that is the most important thing.
“He calls a spade a spade, and he has managed to convince our players that they cannot play 30 games in a season.
“From day one he said that if you play all 30 you will not be able to walk by the end, and when he tells them they are having a rest they have a rest. It is a different mind-set because we were always a club who put our best 15 players on the field week in, week out, but you just can’t do that.
“The fact that we have ended the season strongly with the players still fresh has vindicated that, although you should still see the lads’ faces when he tells them they are being rested.
“The good thing is, though, they understand now and they still want to support the team on match-day however they can, even if it just by carrying a water bottle.”
Confirming a second season at Crow Trees for Ward, Huxley said: “Micky is definitely staying with us, and that has already been sorted.
“His involvement has really got people right throughout the teams passionate about the club, and after the season we have had at every level there is now an air of ‘beat that if you can’ as we look to next year.
“Our pack has been good, and I cannot think of any club at our level with more solidity there. Even Micky scored a try – the fourth of his entire career, he tells me!
“Our second rows might not be the biggest in the world, but by God they punch their weight. Shaun English and Jason Smithson have both been a miss with injuries in the forwards, but the lads who have come in have done a great job.”
Looking for stability on the playing front, he added: “Micky is talking to his players at the moment about next season, but we hope that nobody leaves.
“David Watchorn is moving to study at Bristol University and one or two others are finishing college this summer, but other than that the hope is that we should be pretty settled.”