PRESTON Lodge are on the brink of making Scottish rugby history heading into a clash at Duns tomorrow which would see victory earn them the East Regional League Division One title
Free-scoring PL have added a bonus point for notching four tries in each of their 14 league games and, with that incentive relatively new, it is believed no other team can claim such a distinction. What is more, they can claim the title tomorrow with three games still to play.
However, captain and second row Blair Cowan, a 28-year-old engineer with East Air Conditioning, says the team are only concentrating on victory.
“Coaches Mark Steedman and Craig McGeary have told us there is no pressure to get the bonus point and we’ll be focused on overcoming what is likely to be another stiff challenge from Duns who are lying second to us,” said Cowan.
PL’s revival comes after successive relegations before bouncing back last season only to be denied promotion as runners-up by league reconstruction.
However, the change to a more localised competition – a move driven by PL president Shona Brash at the SRU annual meeting last June – is credited with being partly responsible for soaring fortunes. Added Cowan: “We have been able to direct our resources towards employing a full-time development officer, Dougie Thomson, rather than bus journeys the length and breadth of the country.
“An age gap was developing in our team but that has been addressed with five teenagers who were playing Colts rugby last season introduced to the senior ranks (Blair Robertson, Darren Eales, Raymond Mackie, Paul Glynn and Aaran Welsh).”
Shona Brash, now in her fourth consecutive year as president, said: “Playing closer to home has enabled us to keep in touch with supporters and a more settled team – 27 players used against 45 last season – has been another factor.” While once more no promotion can be gained Brash expects standards to i mprove as teams drop down into a newly-created tier and she would welcome PL eventually regaining the top-flight status they once enjoyed.
“If we were to reach the Premiership the profile it generates would encourage our players and supporters to travel further afield,” says the woman whose first task was to make signs with the word “Believe” to display them around the club. Despite once climbing to the top division before dropping down PL – incredibly – haven’t won an actual title since 1977.
If that changes tomorrow then much credit will go to Brash according to captain Cowan: “Shona is incredibly pro-active in driving our club forward.”