With three home games left to play until the end of the National League One season, Jack Horswell takes a look at our opponents from the North-East, Hull Ionians…
Hull Ionians returned to National League One for the 2015/16 season following back and forth promotions and relegations from National North Two. The club managed to stay up last season and their main aim for the 2016/17 season is to solidify a position in the league and avoid relegation.
The club have a more unusual formation compared to most other Rugby Union sides. Hull Ionians were established in 1989 by the merger of Hull and East Riding with Ionians. The introduction of leagues for rugby union had started two seasons earlier with Hull and East Riding playing in North One and Ionians in Yorkshire Three, six levels lower at that time. The club’s purpose for merger was to bring together a top flight club with a strong youth system (Hull and East Riding) and a smaller club with excellent facilities (Ionians) to create a Yorkshire ‘superclub’ that could progress further up the Rugby Union leagues.
Moving into the early 90s, Hull Ionians had settled in at Brantingham Park. The ground, based in Elloughton, Yorkshire, became the club’s home in 1995. Here is where the Yorkshire club have had their biggest share of ups and downs. The club were promoted from North One to National Three in 2002, ending the longest run of any club in the North One League. The 2004/5 season saw Hull Ionians succeed in the Playoffs and again gain promotion to National Two. The club’s success was majorly down to the management team of Mick Watson and club veteran Steve Townend.
The 2012/13 season saw the biggest element of success in Hull Ionians club history. They were promoted to National League One for the first time, following an unbeaten 17 game winning run, including an unbeaten home run all season.
Following relegation and promotion in the last 3 seasons, the club currently sit 15th in National One and are fighting to jump out of the relegation places with only 7 games left this season. The club is run by Director of Rugby Alex Crockett, a European Challenge Cup winner with Bath Rugby in 2007-08 season and his assistant, Steve Townend has been involved in all the club’s success since 2005. He is a well-respected figure at Brantingham Park.
The management team have found it hard to instill motivation into their players this season and being second bottom with 7 games left, it does not look too promising for the Yorkshire club. It appears on paper that Albion have the edge on Hull Ionians coming into this weekend’s fixture at Brickfields. However, National One this season has already proved that any team can cause an upset and Hull Ionians, on the back end of a vital 45-21 victory over bottom of the table Macclesfield, will be full of confidence going into Saturday’s match-up with Albion.
Despite the struggle that the club have faced this season, Hull Ionians run an excellent youth system spanning from ages u7s to u18s. The club currently have 270 boys and girls frequently competing in Yorkshire and East Yorkshire Rugby Union competitions. The club also run an efficient elite development academy which allows for excelling youth players to gain an opportunity to train and play with the senior sides, including the 1st XV.