Eden Rugby jubilant with return to top
Eden Rugby’s 95th jubilee celebrations couldn’t get any better.
The club has made the top eight of Auckland Rugby’s premier competition, and will now contest the Gallaher Shield for the first time in 30 years.
They’ll play Ponsonby in the first round this Saturday - the same weekend the club celebrates 95 years of history dating back to 1922.
Coach David Bateman said his side aimed to be in the top eight come the jubilee celebrations.
‘‘We didn’t want to play that first round, with the jubilee, in the Portola again,’’ Bateman said.
‘‘It’s just awesome, and we’ve got a home game as well to start the round.’’
It wasn’t a cakewalk for Eden, however, with their fate coming down to the final minutes on Saturday.
They were trailing Manukau in the final match of pool play, and needed at least a point to stay clear of Waitemata, who were also in top four contention. If they lost within seven points they gained a bonus point.
Behind by six, with time about to expire, Eden opted to kick the ball into touch as opposed to trying to win the match, thus gaining the one point and securing their fate as one of four teams to meet the top four from Pool B in the Gallaher Shield.
It continues a stellar season for the Eden outfit, who won the Portola Trophy last year, the Auckland and national sevens competitions, as well as the preseason Pollard Cup.
Their reserve side also made the top eight this year, showing the depth they have going into the next stage of competition.
Jubilee celebrations will begin on Friday, with a number of events planned over the weekend.
A commemorative jersey will be worn on Saturday as a homage to the 1954 Eden team that were promoted to division one rugby after 32 years.
Life member and former president Tom O’Hanlon said it had been a roller coaster 95 years, but to see Eden back at the top would be one of his cherished memories.
‘‘It means a lot to me,’’ O’Hanlon said.
‘‘This is the crowning achievement. I’m 83 now so I’m starting to slow up, but I’ve always wanted to see them get back there.’’
Ponsonby and Eden both finished third in their respective pools. Kickoff is at 2.45pm at Gribblehirst Park on Saturday.
Eden Rugby will contest the Gallaher Shield for the first time in 30 years, coinciding with the club’s 95th jubilee.