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. 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 2015-16, the tables have grown to accommodate 76 sides, a far cry from the 12 sides that took the plunge in 2002.
Knock-Out Finals April 2015
Tim presents Belsize Park’s Trophy to the
Middlesex County President Brian East
The Merit Tables broke new ground this season when the finals were played at Hertford and Biggleswade Rugby Clubs. Hertford have generally had a play-off or league match on the planned finals day and because of the number of games we play on this day each season, we have had to rule out a journey for the finalists to Hoe Lane. The second ground was a little more controversial, with our policy of playing one half of the finals at a Hertfordshire ground and one in Middlesex. However, with the limited number of grounds available to us that could provide three and preferably four pitches in Middlesex, a trip to one of our competing clubs from just across the county borders was chosen. Biggleswade had six pitches and all the other facilities we needed. Once again we played one final at The Mount, where away games are frowned upon.
Letchworth 3rds overwhelming Tim Bonnett
collecting their two awards
As usual the weather had been kind and the sun poured down at both ground for the benefit of the teams, spectators and the many volunteers manning car parks, selling burgers, first aiders looking after the minor injuries and all the other people who provided such a well organised event at each ground.
Saracens getting clean ball from the scrum with Hatfield
Having run the Merit Tables for thirteen years it is easy to get blasé about the importance of playing in the finals. I was chatting to a lady from Tring, who had come along to watch her 17 year old son play against Old Albanians 5th in the Table 7 Plate Final. He had been called up at the last minute and was absolutely over the moon to play in his first final. Let’s hope he plays in many more.
Another story I enjoyed was the elderly couple who caught the train to Biggleswade to watch a Saracens player who had been their lodger. They walked from the station and followed directions they were given and ended up at Biggleswade soccer club, but they were determined to get to the game and continued walking another mile or so to the rugby club. When I spoke to them they were still full of smiles and were enjoying their first trip to the Finals. Rugby is the friendly community game for all to enjoy.
Cuffley proudly showing off their Merit table Plaque after overcoming Tabard
Perhaps one of the most satisfying outcomes that Foggy and I enjoy is to see the re-emergence of those teams that struggled in the League Competitions and have found their level in the Merit Tables, regaining their pride and rebuilding their clubs. Sometimes there is a very fine line between success and failure in the rugby world and once teams start to slide it is difficult to stop the momentum.
We have been proud to watch Cuffley, Hatfield, Southgate and Old Grammarians rebuilding along side the newer clubs of Berkhamsted, Finsbury Park and Weston.
Harpenden receiving another trophy for their collection from
President Graham Walker and Foggy.
A big thank you goes to all the referees’ societies, with Hertfordshire arriving, as always, with their teams of three, including Foggy. It was the East Midlands, supported by the Cambridge Society, first trip to our Finals and they all appeared to be enjoying the afternoon. I think that Graham Walker, Tim Bonnett and Martyn Kirk enjoyed congratulating the winners, seeing and feeling the enthusiasm for the game at this level, while chatting to many old and new friends. Lastly, there were two guys who co-ordinated everything at the two main grounds, John Atkinson and his team at Hertford and Richard Phipps and his squad at Biggleswade, who put on a faultless day for us all. Meanwhile the staff at The Mount also played their part in ensuring their visitors were looked after in unusual circumstances.
Overall, it was a brilliant day to end another fine season of rugby in the Merit Tables.