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Stoke gripped by cup fever

12 March 2012

  • Lutterworth a major threat says Edwards
  • Stoke spying mission rumbled

Cup fever is gripping Stoke again as the RFU Intermediate Cup holders prepare for a second successive home Midlands final in the competition.

Stoke beat Market Rasen & Louth at the same stage of last year’s competition on the way to the national final where they beat Aylesford Bulls at Twickenham.

The draw has again been kind to Stoke whose reward for a hard-fought win against Old Laurentians in the regional semi-final is a home Midlands final against Lutterworth from Leicestershire.

“When we went to Twickenham last year Teddington were there for the second year running and we said then: what are the chances of that happening?” said Stoke’s head of playing Jeremy Edwards.

“But we are not going to get too far ahead of ourselves because we know that we have got one hell of a hurdle to overcome in Lutterworth.

“We are expecting another big crowd and all the publicity we have got from winning the competition last year has really helped to raise the club’s profile.

“Wherever we, people ask us what it was like playing at Twickenham and I’ve even had letters from clubs in other parts of the country who have reached a local cup final asking for advice. It’s amazing really.”

Edwards went on a spying mission to watch Lutterworth beat Long Buckby in Midlands Two East South last Saturday but he did not remain undercover for long.

“I went incognito but I had only been there about a minute when someone asked if I was from Stoke,” he said.

“I suppose my pad and pencil were a bit obvious, but they made me feel very welcome. They are a great bunch and we are looking forward to welcoming them to Stoke.

“There are some real threats in their side and we know that we are going to have to be on their mettle to beat them.

“Although their focus at the weekend was on beating Long Buckby a lot of the talk was about the Midlands final and we know that they are bringing lots of supporters with them so it promises to be a great occasion.”

It is 12 months since Stoke lost a match when they were beaten by Ludlow in Midlands Two West North. The Intermediate Cup provided Stoke with consolation for missing out on promotion last season but they are on for a double this time having won all 17 league games in the current campaign.

“We have had a few stutters recently but we have managed to win some tight games,” Edwards said.

“It was around the time of last season’s Midlands final that we lost to Ludlow. Missing out on promotion last season was disappointing but the cup run was good for us.

“This year the main focus has again been on the league but the cup has been a nice distraction for us.”

Stoke have retained most of last season’s squad, the majority of whom are products of a successful youth system, but have added former Eccleshall fly-half Sam Christmas and ex-Longton wing Gareth Townsend.