RUGBY: Borough up after promotion thriller

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PETERBOROUGH 23 KENILWORTH 21 A PITCH invasion, fireworks and champagne mixed with tears, beers and cheers aplenty . . . Peterborough Rugby Club celebrated a famous victory in some style on Saturday.

PETERBOROUGH 23

KENILWORTH 21

A PITCH invasion, fireworks and champagne mixed with tears, beers and cheers aplenty . . . Peterborough Rugby Club celebrated a famous victory in some style on Saturday.After one of the most exciting contests ever witnessed at Fortress Fengate, Borough will proudly take their place in Midlands Division One next season.

The Midlands Division Two East runners-up saw off the second-placed team from Division Two West to win a promotion play-off that will live long in the memory of a 1,000-strong crowd. It won't be a game remembered for skilful rugby - this was after all a winat- all-costs 'cup final'.

But what the game lacked in flair it more than made up for in blood, guts and thunder.

At times the exchanges were brutal. Kenilworth were big, strong and hard, very hard. But not many sides wage a war at Fortress Fengate these days and escape unmarked.

Tackling tough guys like Pete Brudnell and Nobby Coupland when they've got up steam is a dangerous practice - as half the bruised losers from Warwickshire will testify.

Their star fly-half Takerai Norton, a New Zealander bound for National League Nottingham next season, was forced to play three-quarters of the game with a patch over one eye and ace back row boys Nick Smith and Len Eager were both walking on only one leg at the end.

Kenilworth were tough but Borough were tougher and they deserved every last drop of ale that flowed freely down the hatch until the small hours. Elated Borough skipper Paul Cook hit the nail on the head when he said afterwards: "It wasn't skill that won that game - it was passion and selfbelief. I said at the start of the season that we'd go up.

The spirit and commitment in this side is brilliant. We are all so hungry for success. "And that was typified superbly today by two of our local lads. I thought Pete Brudnell and Nobby Coupland were absolutely tremendous. They were immense. They gave me, they gave the team, they gave the club and they gave the city of Peterborough every ounce of strength they had.

"They and the rest of the lads have made so many people so very happy. This is the greatest moment of my career - perhaps the greatest moment of my life. And we're not stopping here. We never know when we're beaten and with this sort of determination in the club I'd like to think we'll be having a serious shot at National League rugby next season."

Playing in front of one of the biggest crowds ever seen at a rugby match in the city, Borough started strongly and early pressure gave them the first strike on five minutes as stand-off Wimpie Jonker opted for a drop-goal.

Eleven minutes later a half-break by Coupland was followed by a storming 25-metre burst by man-of-the-match Brudnell as he charged thorough the Kenilworth midfield for Peterborough's first try and with Jonker adding the conversion points Borough had deservedly taken a 10-0 advantage.

But Borough never really managed to capitalise on their early lead and the remainder of the first-half play was evenly matched as Kenilworth denied them the opportunity to settle into their normal pattern of play and unleash their free-scoring backs.

The visitors stuck doggedly to the task of spoiling Borough's attacking chances and began their fightback with penalties either side of the half time break to bring them back into the game at 10-6.

On 47 minutes Borough worked a brilliant try with Jonker's long pass finding centre Gedis Marcisauskas and the big Lithuanian crashed through the middle of the Kenilworth defence to touch down near the posts. Again Jonker added the conversion points and Borough's lead was extended to 17-6.

The comfortable 11-point gap was short-lived and five minutes later missed tackles gave the visitors a converted try to close the gap to 17-13 and pull them firmly back into the game. Jonker eased the tension with a penalty on 65 minutes but Kenilworth responded just two minutes later and touched down wide out on the left wing to take the score to 20-18. With nine minutes remaining Borough went behind for the first time 20- 21 as a Kenilworth penalty kick scraped over the crossbar to set up a nervous finale to the season.

Any hope of Borough retaining their season's home unbeaten record and gain promotion seemed to have slipped away as the fixture moved into injury time added on by the referee. But they didn't give up and continued to pepper the visitors' try-line and with just three minutes of play remaining their late rally forced Kenilworth into making errors and conceding a penalty giving Borough a golden opportunity to snatch a last-gasp victory.

With many of the home spectators unable to watch, Jonker stepped up and calmly slotted the winning points from 25 metres out and Borough had snatched promotion much to the relief of the Fengate followers.

Club chairman Phil Elmer said: "I'm really pleased for the squad who have worked so hard for this promotion. It means an awful lot to the players, spectators and club officials who now can look forward to some exciting times next season.

"It is part of our overall plan to continue to develop our base here at Fengate as the headquarters of Peterborough rugby and today's result has certainly helped our cause and put Peterborough firmly on top of the East Midlands regional rugby scene."

Borough: B. Chan, G. Mberi, M. Guseinov, G. Marcisauskas, I. Kukulskis, W. Jonker, P. Humphrey, N. Coupland, P. Cook, J. Clarke, P. Danes, P. Kolakowski, C. Phillips, D. Uys, P. Brudnell. Subs: M. Andrijauskas, T. Hullock, N. Steenkamp, M. Hodges.