Bayford ‘not surprised’ by Wimbledon promotion

Josh Bayford has been at Wimbledon for two seasons
©Wimbledon RFC

Josh Bayford says that Wimbledon ‘bettered their expectations’ this season after earning promotion to National Two South. 

The former Darlington Mowden Park prop was part of the side that beat Dings Crusaders 55-5 in the National Three South play-off two weeks ago.

Wimbledon have been promoted in two of their last three campaigns and they will be competing in National Two South for the first time in their history next term.

“I think we knew we could get top four this season, but promotion was fantastic. It wasn’t a surprise but it certainly bettered our expectations,” he said

“It was a fantastic season. We knew we had a good team at the start of the year. We got promoted to National Three the previous year and finished mid-table 12 months ago and after that, we were pretty confident that we could compete with the top teams in the league.”

Bayford has been with Wimbeldon for two seasons and in this campaign, his side won 23 out of their 26 matches on their way to reaching the play-off.

The newly promoted side are also coached by Nick Evans as well as Joe Gray and Bayford puts Wimbledon's achievements down to the knowledge and expertise of the Harlequins duo.

“It has been great for us to work with Nick and Joe,” Bayford continued. “They understand the game so well and it is those finer coaching points which help so much.

“It is brillaint for them because they get to stay invovled with the game and gain experience on the coaching side of things whilst also passing on their professional experience to us.

“Even though we were in National Three, it was great to get insights into video analysis because we were able to break down our performances and occassionally look at opposition and that professional mentiality certainly benfitted the team.”

Barnstaple and London Irish Wild Geese, who were two of the three sides promoted into National Two South 12 months ago, both survived immediate relegation this year.

Barum and Wild Geese stayed up on the final day of the season but Bayford admits that Wimbeldon won’t be drawn into a similar fight for survival next term.

“Stefano D’Anna, the director, has put a strategy in place with a long term vision for the club to build a solid foundation. I think the aim may well to be to stay up next year which is only natural for a new side coming into the division and it just keeps us building,” Bayford said.

“We won’t go into it with the mentality of ‘fighting for survival’ and we will just take each game as it comes. It is a new challenge for the club. It somewhere we have never been, but there are plenty of guys within the squad that have had experience of playing in National Two.

“It is all about taking stock at the moment. The leadership group of players and coaches will have a meeting next week and our aims for next season will probably be discussed. I am pretty confident we will be competitve next season."

National League 2 South 2016/17 - Points Table