Wirral rugby club on the verge of ‘ridiculous’ and historic rugby promotion to Championship

Even in their wildest dreams Caldy RFC couldn’t have imagined the 2021/22 season turning out as it has.

The Wirral based outfit are currently on a remarkable 16-match winning run and sit top of National League 1, the third tier of English rugby. With 22 wins from 27 games, they face second-placed Sale FC in their final game of the season. Sale sit seven points behind Caldy but have a game in hand. And if Caldy win they will secure an astonishing promotion to the Championship.

Caldy play at Paton Field and are described as ‘a little club with a wooden shack for a clubhouse and an open field for a ground’ by one supporter which demonstrates the gravity of this potential achievement. They are one of the smallest sides in National 1 and don’t have the luxuries of other sides in the division such as overnight stays for long away trips.

Caldy secured the National League 2 North title by winning all 25 of their fixtures in 2019/20 before the 2020/21 season was wiped out due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Understandably ahead of this campaign, there was trepidation at playing at a higher level.

“We were a bit wary of the step-up,” said Matt Cairns, Caldy Head Coach. “We just wanted to consolidate our position in the league and not get relegated. We’ve achieved that and we’re in a good position to hopefully go another step. “



during the National League 1 match Caldy -V- Taunton Titans at Paton Field, Caldy, Merseyside, England on March 26 2022, Photo: Steve Flynn © MANDATORY CREDIT: Steve Flynn © For editorial use only. Copyright remains property of steveflynnphotography.com

Caldy Director of Rugby Gareth Davies agreed. He said: “We were in this league five years ago and were top at Christmas and ended up getting relegated. We worked out 65 points would keep us up so that was the goal. It’s changed as the season has gone on and we’ve stayed fairly healthy which has helped. “

Caldy started relatively well for a promoted team with two wins, two draws and two losses across their first six games. However, an October victory away at Plymouth Albion was a key moment for the season which has seen them win 20 out of their last 21 games – the only defeat being a narrow 20-26 reverse to Rosslyn Park.

Cairns explained: “Plymouth away is a tough game – we went down on the morning of the game at 5:15 and it just clicked for us that day. We played really well and the lads just understood what we wanted to do. It was probably a turning point – the guys realized we were a good team and that we could compete at this level.

Davies added: “Plymouth are a big club with a huge fan base and a difficult team to play. It was a sort of realization that we could compete and belong at this level – we haven’t looked back since. “

The extraordinary run has seen part-time Caldy, who train on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beat every team in the division. This has included many narrow victories including a dramatic 18-17 victory away at Rosslyn Park earlier this month. But what has been the secret to their success?



during the National League 1 match Rosslyn Park -V- Caldy at The Rock, London, Surrey, England on April 02 2022, Photo: Steve Flynn © MANDATORY CREDIT: Steve Flynn © For editorial use only. Copyright remains property of steveflynnphotography.com

Davies said: “We’ve been together as a group for a long time. Momentum is always a factor and I suppose the boys aren’t used to losing. I’m not sure there’s many, if any, clubs in the country playing at our level where you’ve got eight to nine players who have grown up in your junior system and come through together. This is a long time coming.

“I like to think we look after people when they come to us and we’re a pretty friendly club. Nobody leaves unless they’re going to try better things or move away due to work. They’re all mates and when you’re in those tight games you need the lads to pull through and they’re pretty good at pulling together. “

Both Cairns and Davies regularly refer to the great culture that has developed at Caldy. The first team is supported by the second team who have gone a sensational 58 games unbeaten. Both sides train together which ensures a seamless transition when new players come into the team. This has also enabled the club to compete with much larger sides in the division such as Leeds Tykes and Darlington Mowden Park – the latter’s all-seater stadium holds 25,500.

Cairns explained: “We relish it because it is a challenge – we know we’re probably a small fish in a big pond in this league and every game is so tough. We’ve got a really good group of people that want to do really well. The mentality is really strong and they’re a very close bunch that have a great time together away from the club too. As a club we have a pretty strong ethos. We’re very lucky in that aspect. “

Davies, who works as a solicitor day-to-day, echoed this. He said: “It’s what we go into sport for – to challenge yourself. They’re probably as daunted coming to Caldy. It’s different from most places they’ve played before. Someone described it years ago as a little wooden hut on a hill which it is but it doesn’t tell you what’s behind that hut on the hill. “



during the National League 1 match Rosslyn Park -V- Caldy at The Rock, London, Surrey, England on April 02 2022, Photo: Steve Flynn © MANDATORY CREDIT: Steve Flynn © For editorial use only. Copyright remains property of steveflynnphotography.com

For Cairns, his rugby career has been hugely decorated including playing spells at Saracens, Harlequins and Sale and one cap for England against South Africa in 2007. He became Head Coach ahead of the title-winning 2019/20 season and also runs his own financial services company. He hails from the Wirral and if Caldy were to clinch promotion, this achievement would be one of his best di lui.

He said: “I have a real affinity to the Wirral as I grew up playing my rugby here and it definitely does make it better. This achievement would definitely be up there – I was lucky to achieve lots of the stuff in the game when playing. We’ve worked unbelievably hard and it’d be pretty big.

“I’d compare it to Marine FC getting to the Championship in football. We are a small proper rugby club batting way above our average. There are so many good people at the club and that’s happened over a long period of time. It would be an almost ridiculous achievement for Caldy to get to the Championship. “

Caldy narrowly beat Sale 26-21 in the reverse fixture and Cairns is excited for Saturday’s game. What would be his message about him to any supporters thinking of coming down? He said: “They’re a really good side full of good players. They’ve had a long unbeaten run of their own [Sale have won eleven games on the trot] and we’ve got a battle on our hands. It’s a huge occasion and it’s got to be the biggest game locally in terms of rugby at the weekend. I’m sure it will be a great game with a great atmosphere and hopefully an enjoyable day for Caldy. “

Caldy host Sale at 3pm on Saturday April, 23 at Paton Field and tickets can be bought on the gate or in advance from Buy Tickets – Caldy RFC (caldyrugbyclub.com).

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