‘THE GREATEST SHOW’ – with Sevenoaks Rugby Club

Deep into added time, after 80 minutes of high-quality rugby served up by the best two teams in the London and SE Premier Division, the game remained in the balance. Trailing by six points, and camped on the Sevenoaks five-metre line, Dorking’s forwards lunged for the try line, successfully grounding the ball against the base of the post, only for the referee to correctly award a scrum to Oaks for accidental offside. Amongst the one thousand supporters in attendance on a glorious sunny day, the Sevenoaks followers expressed both relief and joy, as the final play of the game followed with the visitors kicking the ball out to conclude what had been a pulsating match.

Sevenoaks Sport & Wellbeing caught up with Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Adam Bowman, a few days before the match against Dorking to find out how Sevenoaks Rugby Club have coped over the last few years and how they now find themselves on the verge of promotion to National Two, the highest position the club will have held since it’s inception in 1925.

Looking back over the last few years with Sevenoaks Rugby Club, how have you coped with everything?
“2020 was a really challenging year. We worked incredibly hard [through the pandemic] to keep people connected and the boys are such a tight group, but we needed to do our bit as a community club and we provided offerings when we were allowed to do so. It wasn’t easy because you felt like you were training for no reason.

“But we were training for wellbeing, with people being stuck indoors and in their houses for long periods of time, it was a chance for them to come out and get connected with friends again.”

The RFU are trying to make the game easier for clubs to play Rugby, however we’ve seen a trend of smaller clubs put on hold for a year? Is this something you see continuing?
“I really hope not. I think it’s sad that those clubs have had to pull out for whatever reason. I see the league restructure as a positive thing for rugby, the RFU are trying to implement a model that is for everyone involved in the game. I’m looking forward to it from a personal perspective, the reason why is for our 2nd team.

“One of our biggest challenges and frustrations, is getting regular games for them. It has been incredibly challenging to get competitive games for them. We have 26 1st XV matches, we need 26 2nd XV matches to run alongside.”

The 2021/22 season started with the loss of the 3rd XV due to player numbers, what were your thoughts going into the year?
“We lost some of the social players. So typically our 3’s, who are part of our senior squad, half the team would be guys that would train and half the team who couldn’t really train but wanted to play socially, which is absolutely fine. We actually want to grow our social offering, but we just didn’t have the numbers after Covid, so we decided not to stretch ourselves this year, and make sure we had two really strong teams playing each week with a view to having a 3rd XV in a year or two years’ time.“

The Sevenoaks statistics have been off the charts this year, what’s changed?
“We have a really strong coaching team. Each individual brings a specialist skillset to the table and they focus on that every single week. We have always built the foundations of our game on a strong set finish, strong defensively, playing in a high part of the pitch but there are objectives to work on our attacking part of the game too, and we’ve worked incredibly hard on it for a number of years.

“Mike Hebden, our attack skills coach, has worked on key defined principles every single week in every single session.
It takes time, and I do believe it’s the hardest part of the game to coach and to see development in. However, we’ve really seen the group move forward and develop in this department.”

You have Dorking away and a chance to go top of the table with three games remaining including Tring, Maidenhead and Hertford, thoughts?
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be incredibly difficult going away to Dorking who are a strong club with a big following and a big crowd, you get a great feeling when you go there. All the players and the staff involved will do it because they want to be involved in games like that.”

You’ve all just had a week off, does that help or hinder your preparations for the match against Dorking?
“At this stage of the season it’s lovely to have a week off. It means that the guys are rested physically and mentally. It’s a long season and the guys have been going since the beginning of July and it just keeps them ticking over. It should be a cracker of a game you’d like to think, with good weather and a good pitch after a week off, so we’ll see.”
The match didn’t disappoint, and a bumper crowd filled the ground to watch the London & SE Premier Division’s top two sides go head-to-head. A match that Sevenoaks ultimately went on to win 29 points to 35.

Asked about the game after a well-deserved celebratory beer, he said:
“What a serious game of rugby that was and what an advert for level 5 rugby. I am incredibly proud of everyone involved in the Senior Squad, the players put everything into that game and trusted our processes to get us over the line to win the game. A massive thank you to all those that came to support at Dorking, the whole squad hugely appreciated it!”

With the focus now turning to the future, is the club ready for National Level 2?
“We have to prepare for all scenarios, but we really haven’t spent that much time on what happens next year just yet! I think the culture of this place is pretty special and whatever the model is and whatever it looks like has to be the right thing for Sevenoaks Rugby Club, my role is to deliver within the model.”

Apart from yourself, who has helped get Sevenoaks Rugby Club to where they are today?
“It’s a real club effort, everyone just doing their bit is what creates the culture of the place, it’s a real special rugby club. From Diane with her players brunches, to Colin and Donna at the bar, everyone on the committee who are incredibly supportive. Trevor, Woolly, Fitzy, Andy, Charlotte, Greg, it’s a real team effort. Everyone in the coaching team through to all the players, it’s just everyone doing their bit!”

Publishing Editor Steve Rowley was asking the questions.