Jake Sharland, chairman of senior rugby at Wiveliscombe RFC, gives us a review of the 2019/20 season, which saw newly-promoted Wivey narrowly avoid relegation from Western Counties West...

IT seems slightly strange reviewing our season so early in April, and in the current circumstances rugby seems rather insignificant.

We hope all members and those within the wider Wiveliscombe area are safe and well.

With that being said, rugby offers a constant in our lives and we look forward to using the extra time gifted to be planning for the coming season after managing to hold on to our Western Counties status by the skin of our teeth!

I think all involved at the club would describe the season as a mixed bag, and right up until the abandonment of the season there was a feeling that our fortunes would change and the winning form was just around the corner.

We are under no illusions that we would have hoped for a better finishing position and that we have been offered a touch of relief from the rugby gods.

I think most players underestimated the step up in the physicality and fitness shown by some of our opposition throughout the year.

Nonetheless, the transformation from our first away game in Bideford (where we ended with 12 players on the pitch due to injuries) to our final game of the season down at Tiverton, where we narrowly lost in the dying minutes, was vast.

We realise that the only way to improve is to be playing 1st XV rugby at this level and learning from our counterparts both on and off the field.

There were many positives both on and off the field this season.

The pride in the jersey and the support from our travelling fans all over the South West made it an enjoyable season for all involved.

With the 2nd XV under the leadership of Ted Keay, they managed to turn the league table on its head from the previous year, finishing up in third position.

There was a great team spirit within a young squad, and a brand of rugby being created, which I must say led to some of the best performances I have seen from the squad in many years.

The relationship between the playing members is as strong as ever, and with social events aplenty the old fashioned rugby values continue within the club, which I am sure would please the occupants of our playing shirts from yesteryear.

Our junior set-up continues to thrive, with talent coming up through the ages, thanks to huge amounts of time committed by coaches, parents and the players themselves to make this possible.

A notable achievement was our Under-18s reaching the county cup final, which was due to take place at the end of April.

Seeing the heart and discipline displayed by the players, I have no doubt there are a lot of future first team caps in that squad.

Sadly, the senior coaching unit of Peter and Brian Stone will be stepping aside this year, having progressed the 1st XV from the foot of Somerset Premier to Western Counties West.

A lot of the success can be attributed to the duo and the endless hours spent on the training field.

In fact the pair coached a lot of the squad right up through from under-12 level!

We would hope that they wish to continue to be involved at the club in one way or another, but this does mean the position of club coach is being advertised and we will be looking to recruit when possible to do so.

There are also changes taking place off the field this summer, in the executive committee - notably the departure of chairman Gary Sharland and honorary treasurer Monika Aplin, who have done a fantastic job in the development of the club as a whole, and they hand over the baton with the club in a really exciting position.