BARNSLEY RUFC secured their league title with a thumping win which marked the end of an era, with several key figures now leaving, but which they hope will bring about the start of a new period of success on the pitch.
The Shaw Laners needed to win at Halifax Vandals to finish top of Yorkshire League Three and recorded a 73-14 victory, overtaking Harrogate Pythons to finish first.
They won 23 of their 26 games and finished top by two points, returning to Yorkshire Two after being relegated in 2020 then seeing a season cancelled due to Covid-19.
They won their first 12 matches of the season under Ant Posa who then moved to Sheffield RUFC.
Ryan Burrows took over as head coach but, since he was playing professionally for Coventry, Kieran Hyde was in charge on matchdays.
Director of rugby Mark Smith is now stepping down from his role, as is team manager Mick Hufton, with Burrows also leaving the club to lead a rugby academy at Wath Academy while playing for Posa at Sheffield.
Hyde will return to being a player next season so there will be a new coaching staff brought in over the summer.
Smith said: “We’re ecstatic to have finished the season as champions, it was a brilliant feeling for all involved.
“It’s been our goal all season, we wanted to finish top and, when you achieve something like that, which you set your heart and mind on, it’s terrific.
“It’s a tough season of 26 games and ten months of commitment as pre-season started in July.
“It’s a huge credit to everyone who has represented the club this past year and I’m so proud of what they’ve all done.
“It’s also ten years since we last won promotion when we won Yorkshire Two so a nice way to celebrate that anniversary. When Ants left us at Christmas there were doubts about what the second half of the season would have in store but we re-grouped, re-focused and went for it.
“We had a couple of bumps along the way and nerves were probably tested a bit but, the closer we got to Saturday, the more confident we became.
“Our boys were really good, both in the warm-up, when they gave me a really good vibe, and during the game when their quality really shone through.
“We scored some superb tries and it was brilliant to finish in such style.
“I spoke to Ants over the weekend and he’s buzzing for us and he’s been a massive part of this.”
Burrows is now retiring from professional rugby having played in the Premiership with Newcastle and the second tier with various clubs.
He has been involved with Barnsley as a coach for four years.
He said: “It’s a massive achievement for Barnsley to be promoted.
“I think this is only the fifth promotion since the club was set up in 1902.
“We were disappointed to get relegated and, the season before that, we finished bottom but didn’t go down.
“We were the worst team in the league for two years so relegation has done us a favour, helped the club redevelop and get a promotion.
“We had a great first half of the season and we were fairly confident of promotion. Then Ant left, and we lost a few games when we didn’t perform well.
“About three weeks ago I said to the lads that we had to win every single game convincingly to go up. They have done that and performed well to a man.
“We have a lot of talented young lads but also older guys who came out of retirement for this season like Simon Casson and Dale Hobson.
“Hopefully I leave them in a good position and they are strong in Yorkshire Two. Nobody wants to see a club going up and down.
“I would like to think I leave them in a better place than when I came in.”
On Saturday, Dave Reed’s try was cancelled out early on in Halfiax but Barnsley scored another three unanswered through Tom Bagnall, Tom Hardwick and Kieran Hatter.
The Vandals got a second but Bagnall made it 33-14 at half-time.
After the break, Joe Perry touched down twice with Elliot Wragg, Mark Fisher, Joe Taylor and Henry Saunders also scoring.
Perry added nine conversions.
Coach Hyde said: “The first 20 minutes were a close came, it was back and forth.
“But then we scored a couple of nice tries, their heads went down and we ran away with it. There were some Harrogate fans there to support Halifax, and hoping they would win the title, but we spoiled their day.
“We finally got there after going the long way around. We had our ups and downs in the second half of the season but we have a lot of togetherness and we stayed positive. The attitude has been spot on all season. It’s been an all-round effort from the players to the coaches to the backroom staff. When we won, there were beers waiting at the side of the pitch so we celebrated in style.
“I have already told the lads we have to work really hard to compete in Yorkshire Two next season, but everyone is really excited for the challenge.”