Liberton enjoying a dramatic change in fortune

Liberton Rugby Club
Liberton Rugby Club
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As the pantomime season begins to get into full swing, rugby in Edinburgh has come up with its own Cinderella story.

Three years ago, the Liberton club were statistically the worst team in Scotland and, after a 133-0 drubbing, they resolved to fight back.

The recovery took time and as recently as 2011-12 they finished bottom of their league with a points total of -1 after deductions for non-fulfilment of fixtures.

Last season was better but this weekend the club that produced the late, great double British Lion, Bruce Hay, need a single point from a visit to East Division Three leaders St Boswells to surpass the 33 gained throughout 2012-13.

What’s more, Liberton will travel as genuine promotion contenders sitting in third place, a point behind Gala YM and two points behind St Boswells, albeit both these rivals have games in hand.

So, what has prompted such a remarkable turnaround in fortunes?

Mikey Steele, prop forward and vice president, says: “There’s a nice feeling around the club with everyone enjoying things. Key to the successes are coaches Phil Murphy and Gary Reilly.

“The coaches will inevitably and modestly put it all down to the players, but they are the ones who have set the new structure, organise training and are instilling discipline.”

Steele, whose side are on a run of three consecutive wins, added: “What has to be recognised, of course, is the input we receive from 3 Rifles army regiment, who have been based nearby with half a dozen players available to us for much of the season.

“Nevertheless, our last match saw all their contingent except for Anthony Martin, a stand off, away on a training course, yet we still put together a winning performance at (Royal) Dick Vet.

“Our team was still strong with a full compliment on the bench spearheaded by Anthony, who notched a hat-trick of tries when we defeated Broughton.

“Having such good numbers means Phil, who had never really left the club and was always around when he agreed to come back to coach, and Gary, are able to work on tactics and game-plans at training.

“I had intended to retire at the start of the season, but a colleague got injured in my front row position and I just had to stay involved. I’m glad I did, because it is a hard atmosphere to walk away from.

“There is a good buzz around everything the club is doing with family and friends attending every game.

“On occasions when members can’t get along they are texting and phoning all the time for score updates. Any points we get from Saturday’s match will take us above the previous aggregate with more than half the season to run and our situation is actually improved by Gala YM having still to learn their points deduction for failing to fulfil a fixture.

“Two teams will eventually be promoted, but although supporters are talking in terms of going up, the emphasis is on taking each game individually as we have only just started on the return matches so it is early days.”

St Boswells proved convincing winners on the last occasion the teams met, but Liberton will travel in buoyant mood.

“It’s our Christmas night out afterwards and we’d love to have claimed St Boswells’ 100 per cent record.

“We have hatched a game plan that the coaches think might just work, and the way the players are thinking just now nothing is impossible!”