After five years of playing in Level Four Rugby, Rosslyn Park finally clinched promotion to Level Three on Saturday with a comprehensive 21 - 43 win over Loughborough University side.

Everyone connected with the club is looking forward to renewing rivalries with old adversaries and friends such as Blackheath and Wharfedale. All that though is in the future and was certainly not assured when the fifteen ran out on a beautiful sunny day at Loughborough in front of a large partisan crowd of students.

Apart from Allen Chilten, who was unavailable, Park fielded a full strength squad boasting bench players like Jon Underwood and Adam Gates, which speaks volumes as to how far the club has progressed over the last couple of years.

The opening exchanges were very much like two prize fighters eyeing each other up in which fly half George Drake scored a sweetly struck penalty after five minutes. Ominously for the students however it was becoming apparent that Park had much more power and strength in the set scrums and the Loughborough eight were being regularly shunted backwards. Almost inevitably then, the referee awarded a penalty try to Park after a series of scrummages near the home line which Ross Laidlaw converted.

Drake scored another penalty after fifteen minutes to cut the margin to a single point and now the talented home back division were engineering some good moves all of a sudden. However, the Parks' backs were also starting to threaten by going through their paces slickly, and an excellent move saw the ball go through several pairs of hands before prop Will Collier was bundled over by the rest of the pack. Now Park were outplaying their hosts confidently and began imposing a firm grip on the game. So, to everyones surprise in the 33rd minute the solid Park defence allowed dangerman Drake to ghost through a gap and score a try which he also converted.

This score which gave Loughborough the lead certainly galvanised the home support who started to roar their favourites on and Park wobbled for a moment or two before being settled by the calming influence of the likes of skipper Rob Jewell and Park legend Chris Ritchie. This phase though was soon over and Park again established their superiority.The backs were now fully into their stride and the lead was regained when an excellent flowing movement led to Marc Sweeney going over and Laidlaw converting.

The half time score then was 19 – 13 and Park went in for their oranges and to hear the coaches’ warnings -despite now having slope and wind in their favour- about a back lash from their young opponents in second half. When the team did emerge after the interval it was a shock to Park followers to see that talisman and top try scorer James Strong had had to be substituted because of a recurrence of an injury.

In this promotional play-off, Park was the team that started the half with more passion and urgency but after only two minutes the ever reliable flanker Morgan Jones found a large gap to scuttle through and score after considerable early Park pressure. Drake again got his name on the score board with a penalty but the game’s balance had now definitely tilted towards Park and after 12 minutes of the half winger Paul Unseld showed his predatory instincts by gathering the ball twenty yards out before worming his way through the narrowest of gaps to score wide out. Laidlaw again converted.

Despite Rosslyn Park’s growing ascendency Loughborough refused to lie down and they did score a try after 18 minutes through their Number eight Burgess when a good sweeping move used the space created by the yellow carding of Chris Ritchie to good advantage. The match though was effectively settled five minutes later when Paul Unseld scorched through again to score an almost identical try, which was converted by the ever reliable Laidlaw. In the last fifteen minutes of the match Park only increased their tally by one penalty but they were now very firmly in control and their grip never wavered even when the coaches went through the range of replacements.

Rosslyn Park: Richard Davies (rep: Chris. Simmons); James Strong (Rep: Ollie Lindsay-Hague), Marc Sweeney (rep: Billy O’Driscoll), Rob Jewell, Paul Unseld; Ross Laidlaw, Graham Barr; Nick Huggett (rep: Max Lahiff), Chris Ritchie, Will Collier; Howard Quigley (rep: Adam Gates), Steve Pape (rep: Jon Underwood); Morgan Jones, Johnny Barrett, Mark Lock.

Replacement not used : Matin Anayi.

Park Scorer: Penalty Try; Will Collier (T), Marc Sweeney (T), Morgan Jones (T), Paul Unseld (2T), Laidlaw (P, 5C)