MY LIFE IN RUGBY

The Rugby Paper - - News | Feature - SI­MON BINNS

Iex­pe­ri­enced some mem­o­rable wins as a player – beat­ing Bath at home while at London Scot­tish, for ex­am­ple – but the big one that got away still ran­kles with me to this day.

At Otley, we had a con­fronta­tional pack who never took a back­ward step and we looked set to lower the colours of a star-stud­ded Har­lequins side af­ter they had been rel­e­gated to Na­tional One.

Pro­tect­ing a slen­der lead deep into in­jury time, I de­cided to change our de­fen­sive align­ment from drift to man-on-man. As the ball came out, I jack­knifed back on Andrew Mehrtens but my in­side cen­tre was still drift­ing onto Will Green­wood and Mel Deane went through for the win­ning score.

It was the se­cond time I’d faced Mehrtens, the first hav­ing been for the North of Eng­land against the NZ Bar­bar­ians when the Sale lads were pulled out at the eleventh hour and Rotherham and Wake­field came to the res­cue.

Apart from tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Quins near-miss, the only other re­gret I have from my ca­reer is not work­ing harder on my goal-kick­ing when I was younger. Yes, I broke lots of records while I was at Otley but ear­lier on I was hit-and-miss, which might have cost me a shot at the big time – not that Le­ices­ter was a bad place to start my se­nior play­ing days.

I’d caught the eye of Le­ices­ter DoR Tony Russ as an Eng­land school­boy and com­bined play­ing with my stud­ies at Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity. Af­ter play­ing a sea­son for the U21s, I made my se­nior de­but in Ire­land, aged 19 or 20. Thank­fully, I had Dean Richards to look af­ter me.

To­wards the end of my Univer­sity days my de­gree was start­ing to suf­fer a lit­tle bit with all the trav­el­ling back and forth to Le­ices­ter and to games with Eng­land Stu­dents, the North and York­shire U20s. So, for the last cou­ple of months of the sea­son I joined Mose­ley as it was on the doorstep.

Rugby had turned pro­fes­sional by the time my de­gree had fin­ished and I ended up at Rotherham un­der Ge­off Wap­pett, my old coach at Brad­ford Gram­mar. Guy Easterby and I formed a good half­back part­ner­ship and I felt that it was at Clifton Lane, dur­ing that first spell, that I played my best rugby.

London Scot­tish came in for the pair of us but just be­fore Christ­mas, Scot­tish signed Spring­bok No.10 Jan­nie de Beer. I was a bit dis­ap­pointed about that but I got my head down and played quite a bit at full-back – prob­a­bly the slow­est 15 in the Premier­ship, though!

Things started to de­te­ri­o­rate when the fi­nan­cial prob­lems set in and that sorry episode left a bit­ter taste in the mouth. For me, as far as full-time rugby went, that was it.

Com­bin­ing my day job in fi­nan­cial re­cruit­ment with play­ing, I re-joined Rotherham. I’ll never for­get the two-legged pro­mo­tion play-off against Bed­ford in 1999/2000. We’d won the league by some dis­tance by the time we played Hen­ley in our fi­nal fix­ture, and we played like drains in front of a crowd that in­cluded the Bed­ford play­ers.

Maybe that no-show lulled them into a false sense of se­cu­rity, but we took a 20-point lead into the se­cond leg down at their place af­ter win­ning 40-20 at home, be­fore des­per­ately hang­ing on to win 40-34 on ag­gre­gate. Cel­e­brat­ing af­ter los­ing a match was sur­real.

For the first half of that Premier­ship sea­son we gave a good ac­count of our­selves, beat­ing London Ir­ish and Sara­cens and push­ing Glouces­ter, Bris­tol and Le­ices­ter close, but once the in­evitabil­ity of rel­e­ga­tion sunk in, the squad started to frac­ture which was a dis­ap­point­ing end to four bril­liant years.

I joined Otley and had some great times at Cross Green. To fin­ish fifth in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons in Na­tional One was a great achieve­ment for such a small com­mu­nity-based club.

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