Braintree hoping home advantage gives them play-off edge
ONE side lost out in the title race by a single point, winning more games than the eventual champions and accruing a positive scoring difference of 392.
The other lost eight times in the league, won six games less but still finished second in their respective division.
Welcome to the anomalies of the play-offs which this Saturday pits Braintree RFC with Harpenden for a place in London 1 North.
Braintree are the big favourites on paper – having finished the season 19 points ahead of their play-off opponents despite playing in a supposedly superior London NE2 league.
They are the ones boasting the vastly superior statistics, but it counts for nothing in a one-off, winner-takes-all match.
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Issuing a pre-match rallying cry, chairman of selectors Jeff Lewis believes that home advantage could be telling.
He said: “I urge the rugby fans of Braintree to get down to Robbs Wood and cheer the boys on – they need our support now more than ever. The boys always appreciate a good crowd behind them and we had several hundred people present at our last league game against Chelmsford.”
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The outcome of Saturday’s match could be telling for a number of local clubs. If Braintree go up, they will form part of an intriguing quartet of Eastern Counties sides in London 1 North – made up of Colchester and Bury who have had a fantastic battle for third place in recent weeks and newly relegated Diss looking for vastly improved fortunes next time around.
Ipswich and Chelmsford will also be monitoring events at Robbs Wood with interest after Braintree comfortably ruled the local roost in London 1 North this season.
Lewis added: “The lads have played so well this season and produced some fantastically entertaining rugby. There’s a genuine feeling that they deserve to showcase their talents at a higher level.
“Harpenden are clearly a good side and they’ll be coming here to claim the same prize as us, so something’s got to give.”