Head coach Jamie Higgins believes Saints Wheelchair Rugby have now achieved more in four years than any other WR5s side in the world, following a silver medal in last weekend’s Poland Cup.
The competition, held in the impressive 14,000-seater Gliwice Arena, saw Saints lock horns with Polish sides Jeźdźcy Mikołów Riders and 4K Jokers Bydgoszcz, as well as old rivals Leicester Tigers.
After some mixed results during the round-robin qualifiers on the opening day, Northampton came up against the Riders in Sunday’s semi-finals having already beaten their Polish compatriots, the Jokers, 26-11. Saints progressed to the final after a narrow 24-20 success, where they faced rivals Leicester Tigers in a repeat of the WR5s Premiership decider.
While Tigers were bolstered by the return of several Team GB and Team Invictus players for the weekend’s action, Saints led throughout the contest until the final few minutes when Leicester pulled ahead before a dramatic Northampton equaliser just before the buzzer.
With the overtime period won by whichever side scored twice more first, Tigers won the tip-off and drew first blood, and though Saints drew level, it was Leicester who triumphed 25-24 on their next possession.
But while they had to settle for silver in Poland, as the curtain came down on a trophy-laden season for Saints Wheelchair Rugby, coach Higgins reflected on what was an incredible experience for his side.
“The support we had from inside and outside of the Club in the build-up to the tournament was amazing, as were all the messages we had while we were out there playing,” he said.
“It was very special to take such as large group of travelling supporters out with us!”Jamie Higgins, Saints Wheelchair Rugby coach
“While we did not quite manage to bring home the Poland Cup, we claimed a silver medal, and having beaten the reigning Polish champions (in addition to our Premiership win earlier in the summer) we can legitimately be classed as one of the top WR5s clubs in the world.
“Our results on the first day were mixed, but we kept our cards close to the chest against Tigers and Riders to not reveal too much of our game plan, and that showed on day two with big improvements against both teams.
“The weekend was a huge experience for the players and the team. We initially launched the club as a community programme, so to now take that to the heights of international game play is incredible.
“We finish our season confident that we have achieved more in just four years than any other WR5s club in the world.”
As well as claiming the silver medal at the Poland Cup, it has already been a ground-breaking year for Saints Wheelchair Rugby having already won the British WR5s Premiership title and the Midlands Development League in 2022.
That followed two WR5s Championship titles in 2018 and 2021, while the club’s Under-14s side were crowned Junior National Champions in 2019.
But for Higgins, silverware on the court is not the only way of measuring his side’s success, and the coach is proud of the culture of his squad and the values they show while representing Northampton Saints.
He said: “The feedback we have received from the Polish Federation and Great British Wheelchair Rugby is that the club is setting a standard of fair play and team spirit that other teams want to aspire to.
“We had teams from different countries coming to join us for warm-ups over in Poland because they felt our team spirit was infectious, and we’ve even had interest from players at other English clubs who now want to become Saints because of the environment that we’ve built.”Jamie Higgins, Saints Wheelchair Rugby coach
“I want to thank everyone again who has cheered the team on throughout this year – let’s hope that 2023 can be as successful on and off the court for Saints Wheelchair Rugby.
“We’re back into training now for the winter months so we can come out firing again next season!”
Saints Wheelchair Rugby’s Poland Cup Final match is available to view HERE.
If you have a disability and want to play for Saints Wheelchair Rugby, if you want to volunteer in any way, or if you want to help the club financially, please contact [email protected].