The National Conference League pyramid for 2017 is starting to take shape and the longer the season goes on, the fewer unbeaten sides remain.
Seven games in, only Thatto Heath Crusaders (7 wins) and Siddal (6 wins) are unblemished in the Premier Division.
In Division One Underbank Rangers (6 wins) and Normanton Knights (5 wins, 1 draw) are unbeaten, while you have to look at Division Three for the next run without a loss, which belongs to Rylands Sharks.
Having only joined the National Conference a couple of years ago, Rylands had faced a testing time with bigger commitment levels required and certainly more travelling, however they find themselves top of the table having won six and drawn one of their opening seven games.
Their last outing saw them beat Waterhead Warriors 64-18 at their newly sponsored Arnold Clark Park home. Coach Matt Wilson was happy to see his team recover from a poor start.
“Once we got some field position and we got some ball, our forwards started getting a bit of a roll on and our backs started to play and we had some big performances,” he said. “It was a comfortable victory in the end. That said we are still furious at our start and conceding eighteen points.
“We did put more consistency in our attack. We were a lot better with the ball. In the last seventy minutes I thought we played some good stuff with the ball.
“We were a little bit more patient and we managed the game a little bit better and if we can do that then we can score points on teams because we play in the right area of the field.
“It says something about the strength in depth at the club when I can bring in some of these 18s lads in that are only 17 and 18. I looked at one point in the second half and my second row, centre and winger on one side, not one of them was over nineteen years of age.”
Troy Brophy and Nick Braide proved the scourge of Waterhead with try hat-tricks and Chris Forster, a former professional with Rochdale Hornets and Blackpool Panthers who recently returned to the sport following a considerable time away, had a good game with his goal and field kicking.
It is not just on the field that Rylands are having success. Matt asked brother Mark to take over from him as chairman and he targeted commercial growth.
“It’s a really good club to be at – everyone is passionate about Rylands and pushing in the right direction,” said Mark.
A close friendship between Mark and the Finance Director at Arnold Clark, who have previously helped the club with the Hilary Steele dinner, sparked the ground sponsorship deal.
“At the start of this season we wanted to ensure that we were going to be around for seasons to come, so we put together a commercial prospectus that we sent out to all our local businesses to try and get them involved at a local club,” Mark added.
“Luckily for us Arnold Clark came in and said they would be happy to be the ground sponsors for the next three seasons which was a massive boost for us. Having a company of their prowess getting involved at Rylands Sharks just shows where we are moving and how quickly we are moving on.”
This week Rylands’ record comes under renewed scrutiny when they travel over the Pennines to play Stanningley.
“It’s one that we’ve been targeting for a few weeks. – we are working hard for that one,” added Matt.