The Hertfordshire/Middlesex Merit Tables were created in 2002 to provide all those rugby sides from the Hertfordshire, Middlesex and adjacent County Unions, which were not playing in the Rugby Football Union National Leagues or other merit tables, an opportunity to play in a competitive structured competition. The clubs are generally located in an area within 20 miles of the triangle formed by the A1/M1/A505.
The teams participating are normally the 2nd, 3rd and 4th XVs of clubs, although several smaller clubs have entered their 1st XVs such that in 2016-17 we will have nine 1st XVs across the tables. The Merit Tables are also used as a starting point for newly formed clubs to demonstrate their playing and administrative abilities before being accepted into the RFU League Structure. In 2016-17, the tables have grown to accommodate 81 sides, a far cry from the 12 sides that took the plunge in 2002.
This season we have introduced two development tables, 8 N&W and 8S&W for the new sides which clubs are developing to cater for players coming into the game. The teams in these leagues will play ten games across the season in a regional set up. Those teams that have an excess of players will then be able to arrange friendly matches on their vacant dates, if the demand requires, while others can plan their games across the tables structured season. Introducing new players to the game in this gradual manner has been welcomed by the clubs and we will be watching the progress with interest to see whether or not it is a blue-print that could be used across the RFU.
Martin Kirk enjoying the victory moment with Harpenden 3rd
Once again the weather was kind, allowing a day of exciting rugby to be played at Saracens Amateurs and Harpenden Rugby Clubs with eight finals contested at each ground.
Both of the hosting clubs were kept busy parking cars and coaches, feeding the players and supporters, manning the very busy bars and all the many other tasks that have to be done by an army of volunteers to make a festival of this size fun for everyone. Many hundreds of players, referees, families, supporters, enjoyed a fantastic day of good rugby and friendly camaraderie.
On hand to present the winners plaques at Saracens Amateurs' ground wasMichael Searls, Group Chairman of Middlesex Rugby, supported by Merit Table Co-ordinators Bryony and Foggy Atkinson, while at Harpenden Rugby Club, Martyn Kirk, Vice-President of Hertfordshire Rugby was presenting, supported by myself.
The results are detailed on the page "Knock-Out Finals 2016". Teams from Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex were all competing for the winners plaques which will probably adorn their club bars for years to come, cementing memories for the players who will be able to recall the try they nearly scored on that great day in 2016 when they "stuffed" their opponents by two points!
Pride of place for winning Merit Table 1 went to Ampthill Jets, who had an outstanding season winning both their Table and Knock-Out Competition, but it was very clear that every team was striving to win and the buzz from the spectators was the same from Table 1 to Table 7. What a great way to end the season.
Scattered Bishop's Stortford players against Belsize Park
Double Joy for the Hertford 4th Captain
Old Albanians Grizzlies and Old Millhillians 2nds maul in progress
with Gideon and Darren in the battle of the giants
Watford 2nd and Weston pushing for glory
A breakaway leaves players stranded, but the Assistant Referee is
hurtling towards the corner flag
A study in facial expressions between Hatfield and Chesham 2nd XVs
In 2017 the sixteen finals will be played on 22nd April at the grounds of Fullerians RFC and Harrow RFC. The progress of every side can be followed on the website and we have made the draw early this year, with all the details listed on the KO pages for each of the tables.