GARETH WALKER, the Championship correspondent of League Express, pays tribute to the achievements of the All Golds this season.
For all intents and purposes, Kingstone Press Championship One was supposed to be a three-horse race in 2014.
Nobody was overlooking the sterling work that has been done by the expansion clubs in that division. Or even being arrogant enough to suggest that there wouldn’t be a handful of shocks along the way.
But as for genuine title contenders, it was widely expected to be one of the three most established clubs in the competition – Hunslet Hawks, Oldham or York City Knights.
You can add a fourth team to that list now.
In collecting 16 points from a possible 18 since appointing Scotland coach Steve McCormack, Gloucestershire All Golds have emerged as credible Grand Final winners.
During that period, the All Golds have beaten both York and, last Sunday Hunslet, the latter coming on the Hawks’ own ground.
With experienced hooker Craig Cook to the fore, the Gloucestershire side edged an exciting contest 23-16 at the South Leeds Stadium.
Oldham are the only side to have beaten McCormack’s side in that spell, winning a tight contest in May 30-22.
It’s a run that has lifted the All Golds into fourth place on the Championship One ladder, four points clear of another improving side in Gateshead Thunder.
But while McCormack’s men might not catch the trio at the top in the league, this season’s structure means that it is all about the play-offs at the end of the regular campaign.
The one promotion place on offer will go to the winners of the Grand Final rather than top spot being elevated automatically, as in recent years. And that means that, on current form, the All Golds have as good a chance as any of securing the coveted final place in the new-look Championship from 2015.
What a story that would be less than two years after forming as a club. It wasn’t an easy start to life in the professional game, with just two victories last season – although they did compete in most matches.
But since the mid-season arrival of the vastly experienced McCormack, they have kicked onto another level and deserve to be talked about as potential Grand Finalists.
McCormack has made minimal changes to the squad, working in the main with players already at the club.
And while his side are flying on the field, you only have to take a quick look at the club’s official website (www.allgoldsrugby.com) to see the level of activity off it, which is a credit to club president Lionel Hurst and the other officials at the club.
McCormack will doubtless try and keep his side’s feet on the ground – but the All Golds deserve significant credit for their recent run, and a definitely a team to watch between now and the end of the season.
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