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Newmarket Rugby Club secure promotion to play Tier 7 rugby for the first time next season

The first team at Newmarket Rugby Club have written a new chapter into the history books.

A 32-20 victory at Fakenham on March 23 finalised second-placed Newmarket’s promotion from the Counties 2 Eastern Counties – and ensured that they will be playing Tier 7 rugby for the first time next term.

“It’s something that we targeted at the start of the season,” said club chairman and director of rugby Pete Boyle. “This was our third season in the league and we’ve come close a couple of times before. We felt like we were building towards this and while it wouldn’t have been disastrous had we not done it, we always thought it was a achievable.

Newmarket Rugby Club celebrate their promotion
Newmarket Rugby Club celebrate their promotion

“We’ll be playing at the highest level in our record books next year. We’ve been in Tier 8 before, but we’ve always ended up bouncing out of it.

“It did us a lot of good to sustain things for a couple of seasons – it set us up brilliantly for this year.”

It was not so long ago that the very existence of the senior side was under serious threat.

A restructure of the leagues in 2017 saw an underprepared Newmarket promoted to Tier 8 and they subsequently struggled.

Numbers – both at senior and junior level – started to dwindle, but Boyle and his team of volunteers helped to turn things around.

“Back then we got promoted because of a rejig rather than on merit,” he added. “It was tough and we were losing left, right and centre.

“There wasn’t a lot of appetite from the leadership at the time to do something about it. The landscape was changing and we needed to change with it.

“The juniors were struggling then as well for numbers, but we’ve worked so hard and new players are always coming in now.

“We’ve kept it a family oriented club and it’s been astonishing the transformation from 2017. We’re a different club now with a different ethos and different ambitions.

“I’m so proud to be chairman and director of rugby. The promotion is one thing, but also because we’re a club that’s not just surviving, we’re thriving in a difficult climate.

“It’s a testament to all of the volunteers. I’m always humbled by all of the unpaid work they do to make sure we have the club that we do.”

Boyle also reserved special praise for head coach Martyn Wall, who has overseen a campaign in which Newmarket have won 16 of their 19 outings so far.

Wall took on the role around the same time Boyle stepped up as chairman – and the pair have worked effectively together.

“Martin and I had a very frank discussion when he took on the role and I told him I’d do whatever I could to help him,” said Boyle.

“He’s done an amazing job. You have to remember that Martin came in the season after the team nearly folded.

“He’s worked so hard to get the team to where he has and while he’s a very ambitious person and coach, he’s done it in a sustainable way.

“Without Martin the success we’ve had would not have happened.”

Newmarket still have one final fixture to play at home against Bedford Athletic II on Saturday, April 6.

Having lost to their visitors on the opening day of the season, Wall (pictured inset) and his players will be looking to gain some revenge and sign off in style in front of their own supporters.

But Boyle has also started to look towards 2024/25 and he is confident that there is enough quality within the squad to compete at a higher level.

“We’re not underestimating the size of the challenge but I’m confident we can consolidate for a couple of seasons and then see what happens from there,” he said.

“There’s some real talent in that group and there’s also some real talent coming through the ranks as well.

“It’s a mindset thing and the boys are all buying into the way that Martin wants us to play and how he is doing things. They can see it’s working and having that buy in will be key when we go up a division.”