Manchester clubs survive ‘torrid times’ to land awards at National Rugby Awards

The North West is basking in rugby glory after two teams from Greater Manchester won accolades at the prestigious Crabbie’s National Rugby Awards at Twickenham.

Held at rugby headquarters, the National Rugby Awards celebrate the best of English rugby, from grassroots to the very pinnacle of the game.

Manchester Rugby Club were crowned Senior Men’s Team of the Year, after the Grove Lane side were recognised for their resilience and fighting attitude after a decade of despair which saw them relegated five times in succession.

As Manchester slid down the RFU pyramid, all but four players decided to ply their trade elsewhere as financial optimism deserted the club, which went on to concede more than 6,000 points while scoring fewer than 600 themselves in just three years. 

But familiar faces at the club were determined to see it climb back up the league ladder, which culminated in the club winning promotion to North West One for the 2017-18 season.

Club captain Karl Higginson, who received the award, believed it reflected the hard graft of those at the club who remained defiant in the face of adversity. 

“It means so much. We endured a torrid time around 2009, when we were falling through the leagues,” said Higginson.

“This is an award for all the boys who have been there since that tumble down.

“It means a lot, we had to have a lot perseverance to get there.”

For Higginson’s teammate, Richard McCartney, descending on the iconic ground at The Stoop was topped off by winning the award.

“It’s been incredible. To come to the home of English rugby and win an award for the whole team is just amazing.

“The grounds men at Manchester Rugby Club are fantastic – they do a great job. But to come to Twickenham and see the pitch, which is like a carpet, it’s unreal. It really shows you the difference in terms of what you can strive towards.

“I got to sit in the royal box which was fantastic and an unbelievable experience to come here, it’s been a great day.”

Meanwhile, Wigan Rugby Union club was also celebrating after the club was crowned the Youth & Mini Section of the Year winners for its effort in developing its junior ranks from humble beginnings.

Ian Morgan, the club’s mini and junior section chairman, said: “I’m lost for words – a lot of my mates will say that never happens, but I’m completely dumfounded, especially knowing the opposition that we were up against.”

And club president Alan Hodkinson also paid tribute to the strength and depth of the junior sections, which has brought a wealth of success to the club.

“Every successful team that we’ve had at our club has been born out of the minis, the juniors sections and the colts, so it’s absolutely crucial for the future success at the club that these categories continue to thrive,” said Hodkinson.

“We can’t afford to pay players – sadly, the cream gets taken away by Sale Academy and Fylde Rugby Club – but the rest of them who stay are crucial to the survival of grassroots rugby at the club.”

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