Buxton RUFC director of rugby Karl de Groot said he was proud of his players — and the rebuilding job at the Stags this season — as they continued their defence of the Derbyshire Shield by winning a place in the final.
After defeating Tupton 22-15 in the semi-final, de Groot revealed some of the difficulties the club has faced this season, which has seen them also reach the final of the NLD Cup and be mid-table in Midlands 3 East (North).
“We have had a difficult season, which publicly we haven’t shared,” he said. “I’m never a fan of sports coaches who whine, so we have just got on with the job.
“But as we are where we are now, we can perhaps share some of the rebuilding that we have been doing since last season’s feats.
“We lost 12 players from the (RFU Junior Vase final) Twickenham squad — students returning home as well as players retiring on a high, family commitments and all that.
“So we have had a rough ride, sometimes fielding only 14 players on away trips.
“So to achieve what we have done to date shows the quality of who we do have, as well as their desire to succeed. The managements team is extremely supportive, especially our chairman.
“To say I am deeply proud of them all would truly be an understatement, however, the job is not finished and we have lots to do to keep moving forwards.”
De Groot said he knew the semi-final would be tough, despite the Stags beating Tupton three times last season.
“We never expected an easy ride to the final,“ he said.
“When you put into perspective our season so far, this is a huge achievement.
“We are now in the finals of both the Derbyshire and NLD cups, and are mid-table in the league after being promoted.
“I am really proud of the guys. They don’t get an easy ride in terms of expectations, so credit where credit is due.”
After their semi-final win at Midlands 4 North East Tupton, the Stags will face local rivals Bakewell or Belper in the Derbyshire Shield final at Ilkeston on May 6th.
The Stags had to repeatedly sustain early pressure as Tupton took a 3-0 lead in the ninth minute after an early penalty was ordered to be re taken after visiting players were ruled to have moved on the kick.
Tupton had all the early play and caused problems at set pieces and breakdown areas. The Stags gave away a series of early penalty opportunities, which could have led to a try wide out for Tupton had a pass not gone astray.
Matt Lomas kicked the visitors level with a penalty before hooker Mike Pullen claimed the first try for the Stags in the 30th minute following their first period of sustained pressure with Austin, Degroot and Meek all carving holes through the home team’s resilient defence.
Tupton responded with a try and conversion to lead 10–8 at half-time.
In the second half the Stags played uphill against the conditions and had to rebuff early Tupton pressure.
The Stags used their superior fitness and fluency to win a series of penalties near the Tupton line. The resulting lineout ball was claimed by McHale and Degroot, leading to opportunities for Austin, Meek and Rosamond in the front row to stretch the Tupton Forwards.
A quick tap-and-go by Austin led to a try under the posts, converted by Lomas, for a 15–10 lead for the visitors.
The Stags moved Wagstaffe to fly-half and his crunching tackle turned the game, bringing both centres into play and gaining territory behind the now struggling Tupton forwards.
Meek, Storer and Pullen paved the way for captain Degroot to go over in the corner off a hard line round the forwards close in, stretching the lead to 22-10.
Tupton hit back with a try to ensure a nervous last three minutes, but the Stags hung on to win a place in the final.