Ipswich are gearing up for big day

IPSWICH Rugby Club are gearing up for one of the biggest days in their history tomorrow.They are looking to bridge a gap of almost 30 years by recapturing the Eastern Counties Cup at Humber Doucy Lane.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH Rugby Club are gearing up for one of the biggest days in their history tomorrow.

They are looking to bridge a gap of almost 30 years by recapturing the Eastern Counties Cup at Humber Doucy Lane.

But standing in their way of winning the trophy for a fourth time are Shelford of Cambridgeshire, who play two levels higher in London Division One.

Ipswich won the inaugural competition in the 1970-71 season and retained it the following year. They made it a hat-trick of wins in 1978 but have had no joy since then.

Officially named the David Robinson Knock-Out Trophy, after the late long-serving president of the Eastern Counties Rugby Union, the Eastern Counties Cup is competed for annually by clubs in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

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The region's most prestigious competition, Ipswich entered at the semi-final stage after defeating Bury St Edmunds 10-6 to win the Suffolk County Cup and a 15-5 win over Norwich earned them their place in tomorrow's glamour occasion.

Club president Roy Lewis CBE said: “Not only have we played fantastically well to reach the final for the first time in over 20 years, but it also happens to be the first time in 20 years that the Ipswich club has staged an Eastern Counties Cup final.

“We are expecting a huge crowd and we hope as many ex-players and supporters as possible will turn up because home advantage could be crucial.”

Ipswich's directors of rugby, Simon Hughes and David Broughton, are under no illusions about the magnitude of the task that awaits them.

Shelford have enjoyed an easier route to the final, with byes over Saffron Walden and Cambridge in both the quarter-final and semi-final, and are clear favourites to triumph tomorrow.

But Ipswich, who suffered four successive league defeats before last weekend's 31-12 success at Diss, are determined to make the most of their big chance.

Hughes said: “We are in the London League Division 3 North East and Shelford play two leagues higher than us in London Division One.

“So we clearly start as the underdogs but as everyone knows anything can happen in cup competitions.

“We have home advantage and absolutely nothing to lose so we will be going all out to pull off a shock result in what will be our finale to the season.”

Broughton added: “Shelford are a very strong side playing in a much higher level of rugby but that won't deter us.

“It's a big day for the club and a massive challenge for our boys. Hopefully they will again rise to the occasion, as they did to beat Norwich at home in the semi-final.”

Tomorrow's final kicks off at 3pm. Adult admission is £5 but there is no charge for anyone under the age of 16.

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