Captain Owen Edwards looks back on their unpredictable summer with Warwickshire League Twenty20 final still to come
Typically English weather in the final weeks of the season meant that three of Rugby’s last four matches were lost to the rain, including Saturday’s encounter with Olton.
It was a disappointing way to end the season, after Rugby’s form had picked up significantly in the second half of the summer and the 1st XI were targeting a top three finish in the Premier Division for the first time.
When they reflect on the season as a whole, Rugby will understand why they are gaining reputation for being consistently unpredictable, equally capable of dominating the best sides in the league as they are imploding against the worst.
The 2016 season was an intriguingly similar story to the previous one, as Rugby started the summer with a win, before a severe loss in form and confidence left them languishing near the bottom of the table.
However, as in 2015, an away trip to high-flying Bedworth saw Rugby produce one of their best team performances of the summer and turn their season around, progressing confidently up the table from then on.
Like the season before, the team briefly flirted with fourth spot, before finishing the season in fifth, which represents another season where they won more than they lost, but captain Owen Edwards was left frustrated: “We are an ambitious side and we haven’t achieved what we are capable of.”
“At the start of the season, I thought we’d learned from last year’s inconsistency and were ready to challenge for title, but the first half of the season was really poor. It was a tough time as a captain, because we got stuck in a rut and lost to three sides who spent the year scrapping to avoid relegation.”
Despite this, Edwards is keen to acknowledge the positives, “I guess you have to be realistic and be pleased to finish in the top five of the premier division, especially if you’ve not been at your best.”
“We had some real momentum in the last few months and, if it hadn’t been for the rained off matches, I think we’d have moved up another spot or two.”
“Also, while the 1sts are bit frustrated with our season, the club has a whole has developed well. We added a lot of depth to the squad this year and that really benefitted the 2nds who had a brilliant season in to come fifth in Division 3.”
The additional depth that Edwards refers to includes new signings Asaad Qureshi, Rishi Tank and the Rathod brothers, Vishaal and Bhavik.
Qureshi made a particularly strong impact at the top of the order for the 1sts, signing for the last 12 matches and scoring 423 runs at an average of 38.45.
The run scoring was led by Henry Wilkins (556 runs at 42.77) and Owen Edwards (538 runs at 38.43), while Edwards (31 wickets at 13.48) and Lee Golding (24 wickets at 22.96) starred with the ball.
Meanwhile, Rugby 2nd XI had a really impressive season after being promoted into Division 3 and more than holding their own.
They matched the 1st team’s effort, finishing in 5th place as well, which skipper Rob Stipanovic was very proud of, “The lads really stepped up this season. We feared that we might be in a relegation battle, but spent our season challenging at the other end of the table, which is a credit to the team.”
All-rounder Jonny Sage was the 2nds’ most consistent performer, enjoying his best season for the club with 308 runs and 18 wickets to his name, often stepping up to perform when the team needed it most.
Chris Evans (391 runs at 30.08) and Barry Taylor (350 at 31.82) were the leading run scorers, while Raj Chohan (235 runs at 117.50) showed some dazzling form when he was dropped from the 1sts and young opener Jeevan Barhey scored 246 runs at 27.33.
Naresh Kaushal (21 wickets at 14.62) was the pick of the bowling attack.
Rugby’s 3rd team enjoyed the most successful season, finishing third in Division 10 East, although they would have hoped to secure a top two spot and guaranteed promotion.
All-rounders Adam Milsom (261 runs and 32 wickets) and Rubans (212 runs and 17 wickets) were their key players, while Akshay Vaghela (306 runs at 61.20) was the leading run scorer.
Ultimately it was a reasonable season for Rugby, with all three teams finishing in the top five of their respective divisions but, with the talent at the club, there is the ambition to go further and the 2016 season finishes with a sense of frustration.
However, the team have one big chance to finish on a high when they play against Warter Orton in the final of the Warwickshire League Twenty20 at Edgbaston on September 24 and victory there would surely over shadow any previous disappointments.