For many rugby lovers in the West Midlands Saturday, March 31, 2012 may go down as a black day in the region’s sporting history.
Both Stourbridge and Birmingham & Solihull, two of the area’s most high-profile clubs, finally had their National One life support machines turned off and were relegated to level four.
In Stour’s case that meant an end to their 11-year stay in the third tier, where they had become a model of careful husbandry and dogged play.
For Bees it was the second successive demotion as the club’s period of recalibration continues.
It would be wrong to say they continue to pay for the profligate years but perhaps right to suggest that, as their revenue streams currently stand, they are returning to a more sustainable level.
So I thought I’d try to lift whatever doom and gloom there is lingering over the region and highlight a few causes for optimism.
One of which is at hand just a couple of miles down the road from Stourton Park, where Old Swinford Hospital have reached Twickenham for the first time in their history.
Andrew Coalter’s side will be optimistic of returning too with most of this year’s Daily Mail RBS Under-18 Cup squad available next season.
A few miles in the other direction Dudley Kingswinford’s renaissance continues apace. Having won Midlands One West without losing a game last season, they are well clear in second place in National Three (Midlands).
Weakened by injuries, Jon Higgins and Pete Knight’s men put up an outstanding fight to hold Rugby Lions to just 19-14 at Webb Ellis Road on Saturday and, despite the loss, their almost entirely homegrown side is guaranteed a promotion play-off. Should they want to win it.
If they do that would put them at the same level as Bromsgrove, who have acquitted themselves admirably in their first season in National Two – a division roamed by some extremely well-backed clubs.
But never have Ross Baxter’s side looked out of place with the likes of Loughborough Students, Caldy, Preston Grasshoppers and Luctonians, and they seem certain of a hugely creditable top-half finish.
Further down the pyramid Sutton Coldfield have enjoyed a perfect league season as they bid to emulate DK at level six and the five-team battle for second place in Midlands Two West (South) is something to behold.
And, of course, Worcester and Moseley have secured their statuses uncharacteristically early. So it’s not all bad news.