WHEN BARRY Poulter moved to Halstead five years ago, he was surprised to learn that the Essex town had no rugby club. Nor, apart from a handful of games under a pub name in the Seventies, had there ever been one.
Poulter and Neil Prentice, a fellow resident who was coaching Bury St Edmunds, were aggrieved that local players had to travel to Braintree, Colchester or Sudbury to play rugby. So they set about forming a Halstead club.
An A4 poster in the Dog Inn attracted half-a-dozen enquiries, a website a few more. Mates of mates boosted numbers and word spread. “And the RFU couldn’t do enough for us, they were fantastic,” says Poulter, 41. “It soon spiralled. From an initial training session last year of five players in a park, we now have around 40 players, with 20 or more of them attending Wednesday night training.”
Embracing a full spectrum of talents, from ex-Bath and Rugby Lions prop Paul Shadbolt to high-scoring rugby novice Jamie Carroll, Halstead Templars have just completed their maiden season. They finished fifth in Division Eight of the Essex BL Merit tables, and reached the Plate final, losing 11-9 to Bancroft 2nds.
“It’s a really friendly league,” adds prop Poulter. “And if you can’t field a side you don’t get punished, you just rearrange the fixture or concede a walkover. It’s real grass-roots rugby.”
Home games have been played at Sudbury – but not for much longer. Next season will see Halstead use the town’s sports complex for a modest rent and, with kit sponsorships and a hard-working committee in place, Poulter insists the club is here to stay. “The town has the rugby club it needs and deserves,” he says, “and we won’t let it die.”
Halstead are our March Team of the Month and win 22 Canterbury kitbags. Next month we sign off with our champions section – don’t miss it!
Check out February’s Team of the Month
This article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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