St Leonards 24 pts Clee Hill 31 pts
CRAIG Breakwell scored a 15-minute hat-trick to seal an historic promotion for Clee Hill Rugby Club on the final day of the season.
Coming back to beat basement club St Leonards 31- 24, the club ensured they will be playing n Midlands Three West North next season – the highest level in Clee Hill’s short history.
And skipper Matt Bowen says his young side is defying the doubters at the club who believe they should not take the step up.
He said: “It’s a great achievement for the club – there were some heavy celebrations on Saturday.
“But a few members at the club think we should stay for another year.
“Our players have stepped up this year against the better teams – and playing at a higher standard will only help our younger players improve.”
The promotion was effectively won last week with a six-point win over leaders Harborne, putting daylight between themselves and third-placed Cannock.
However with the easiest final game of any of the top three sides, an already-relegated St Leonards proved a far tougher test than Clee Hill expected.
“They came out all guns blazing,” said Bowen, who saw his side fall behind to two early tries.
However, in the final stages of the half Breakwell turned the game on its head, crossing three times to take his side in ahead.
The electric centre touched down twice out wide, before taking in inside ball off impressive young fly-half Steve Adams, beating several defenders and burning off the cover to seal his hat-trick.
St Leonards would never regain the lead, despite exchanging second-half tries with wing Guy Hampton and a long-range breakout effort from scrum-half Charlie Evans, with Adams kicking the points.
“If we had played like we had against Harborne we would have scored 50 or 60 points,” Bowen said.
While lapses in consistency will be punished far more harshly at the next level, the skipper has no doubt this squad – who were the only side to do the double over Harborne this year – is ready to meet the challenge.
He said: “I look at Uttoxeter, who we beat last year and ran very close up there; they finished comfortably mid-table.”
Eyes now turn to the off-season.
The first order of business will be player of the year honours – where Breakwell and his less flashy counterpart from the back row George Edwards are favourites – before the club look to add to their young squad.