Following relegation in 2018 to South West Division 1 West, there were high expectations at Regentsholme for an immediate promotion back. Appointment of Lee Fortey as the new head coach was going to bring a wealth of rugby experienced having played at the top level with Newport, Gloucester, Worcester Warriors and also England U21. Supported by Dave Emery the Severnsiders commenced the season full of hope trying to build a dominate pack and change their style of play.
Pre- season did not go well and Lydney commenced their campaign losing to Launceston at home who would eventually finish the season with promotion. During the first two months Lydney struggled to adapt to their new style of play. The forward pack was starting to look good but the backs were struggling with the new game plans. This combined with the squad picking up some long-term injuries to key players already dramatically depleted the squad. Close loses to Teignmouth and Bridgewater in October in games the Severnsiders should easily have won saw them languishing near the relegation zone. However, with a couple of rugby league players returning including Joe McClean the Severnsiders started to turn things around with two home wins and a long trip to Plymouth to play Devonport Services who were riding high in the table saw Lydney get their first win on the road for over two seasons.
With things looking up the Severnsiders had yet more injuries and on some weekends, had over 15 players with injuries, so a depleted side were often bolstered by players from the second IV. This gave great opportunities for some promising young players to make their mark, Henry Sleeman, Alex Nelmes and Jack Knox were proved to be pivotal in the season turning around. Captain Sam Arnott and the reliable Dave Bennet were instrumental in helping the young lads and bonding the team in difficult times. Lydney struggled in December and January with so many injuries, the squad was revamped every week just to field 15 players and a run of 5 loses in six games plunged them deep into relegation trouble. However, things then started to change, the players had adapted to the new style of play with much more pace and the young players were now an integral part of the team. A good win at home to Teignmouth saw the tide turn, despite losing then in a close game to Bridgewater confidence was clearly high and the players were now linking as a team. A run of five successive wins then followed, the game against Coney Hill saw the Severnsiders score over 80 points away from home. Regentsholme had become a fortress again and large wins against Weston, Cullompton and Devonport had Lydney rapidly climbing the table.
So Lydney closed the season seventh in the table, injuries to key players clearly effected the team but this combined with a poor start and losing a few tight games they would surly have been challenging for promotion. The recent run of five wins in a row will give the side confidence, providing they can keep the squad together, even add a few players, for sure they will be title contenders next season. The Severnsiders have a young side and they will only get better so the future looks bright at Regentsholme.
Report by Roger Pike