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Dartfordians RFC promoted as London 2 South East champions

By Steve Tervet

Dartfordians will play at the highest level in their history next season after being crowned London 2 South East champions.

Victory away to second-placed Hove on Saturday was the Darts' 19th in a row and it underlined their total superiority in the division.

Celebrations went on long into the night as the players toasted their success.

Dartfordians celebrate their promotion to London 1 South
Dartfordians celebrate their promotion to London 1 South

"It's a huge thing," said chairman Jarrod Lawrence. "To do it as a community club, without paying players, is a massive achievement.

"Next season there won't be many teams in that league who don't pay their players something.

"It's a fantastic achievement and the whole club rallies behind it. We've got five senior teams and they're all texting me, asking for results.

"We finished third in the league the last two years and it's predominantly the same side with a bit of experience and maturity.

"We've got a good coaching team, most of which has come from within the club. The head coach (Bob Hussey) is external but he's bought into what we do and he's coached at a higher level before.

"The players have either come through the junior ranks or certainly been connected to us with Dartford Grammar School.

"Do do it in that way is even more satisfying. We've got loyalty, not a load of people that might just disappear for an extra £50 a week.

"We've got people who don't mind putting their bodies on the line just because it's Dartfordians. That's what is really impressive.

"Next season, the club will be 95 years old and if we can stay up, that would be a great achievement. It will be tough because there are some very strong sides in that league but I think we're up to it.

"We've played a decent brand of rugby this season that will hopefully stand us in good stead to stay up."

Dartfordians, who were playing in Kent 1 as recently as 2013, have now won three promotions in six years.

Mr Lawrence said: "We've got a big junior set-up, a big senior set-up, girls sides and we're starting a women's team so the last six years has been an amazing journey and a lot of hard work from all the volunteers, not just the players.

"Everybody looks at the first team because that's the peak of everyone's performance and this promotion makes sure that what we've done in the last six years continues across the whole club. Everyone will be keen to emulate what we've done."

Dartfordians have won all 19 of their matches in London 2 South East this season Picture: Andy Jones
Dartfordians have won all 19 of their matches in London 2 South East this season Picture: Andy Jones

Since being relegated from London 2 South in 2005, the equivalent level to what is now London 1 South, regional rugby has changed significantly.

Mr Lawrence said: "It's going to be a tougher league, with some longer journeys.

"Our boys are still relatively young so we'll need the experienced ones to carry on playing and use their nous and physique to protect some of the others.

"If you looked at our side, you wouldn't say 'wow, they're big' - they punch above their weight. They're not big boys across the piste so we may need to do some recruiting.

"But they'll come and play for the club on the same basis as everyone else.

"We'll do our damnedest to stay up but if it means that other sides are better than us and we come back down, we won't change.

"We're successful as a club because of the way we are so we're not going to change that model."

Dartfordians look set to pass Gravesend on the way up with their local rivals facing relegation from London 1 South.

Mr Lawrence said: "A lot of their older members have strong connections to Dartfordians so it would have been nice to have that game.

"A couple of years ago we were quite a way away from Gravesend. It's all been down to hard work and a good model."

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