I spent many hours going through the thousands of photos I have shot during the past year to come up with my favourite 10.
Bishop’s Stortford RFC won the National 2 South championship in 2016-17, earning promotion to National 1, the third tier of English rugby. Although the title was won before the final match of the season, the presentation was saved for the club’s final home game of the season against Barnes. After another impressive victory, the team gathered on a temporary stage behind the pitch as ecstatic captain Tom Coleman, a try scorer in his final match before retirement, lifted the trophy. I shot a lot of frames of this but this one is my favourite as there is champagne squirting, shouts of joy, arms in the air and the captain’s expression really captures the crowning moment of his career.
Hertford RFC full back Sean Taylor lines up a conversion kick against Westcliff. I was sitting almost directly behind the posts and whilst good for tries, usually this is the worst place to capture a conversion, as the opposition players typically gather for a brief pep talk after conceding a try, and then wander off along the line just as the player is about to kick. I’ve had many decent conversion or penalty pictures ruined by a player blocking the shot but here two opposition players stopped either side of the kicker to provide a nice frame, even posing in the same way.
Producing nice goal photos can be very difficult, particularly at Sunday League level. The key elements I try to capture are the goal scorer, the keeper, the ball and some part of the goal itself to provide context. This picture sees The Rosey take the lead through the player on the right, with the keeper and defender looking on helplessly as the ball ripples the net.
I was invited to Bishop’s Stortford RFC’s photo evening in August by the club, with a very loose brief to capture some typical rugby poses of the first team players. Prior to the evening I did some research and put together a selection of poses that I asked the players to replicate. After finding a clean background on the far side of the pitch, and with some beautiful natural light, I shot a series of portraits which I am quite proud of, with this one of Jon George the pick of the bunch.
In March I shot a charity golf day at Mill Green Golf Club in Welwyn Garden City. This was my first time shooting golf and yielded some pretty good results. I was happy with this shot of a player lining up his putt, framed by his team mate holding the pin flag in place.
As soon as I had clicked the shutter on this photo I knew it would be a good one. Hertford RFC were playing Westcombe Park at home in November and I was sat at the far end, with the action all happening close to Hertford’s try line. Scrum half Michael Sargent reached across with one hand to tackle Westcombe Park’s no 10, his feet lifted off the ground and he was carried a metre or more by his opponent before landing in a heap.
This is a simple picture but I like the composition as the two players from The Grove and Sun Inn Lemsford challenge for a header, neither quite sure where the ball is.
In rugby, capturing incendiary moments can be tricky as there is usually a writhing mess of bodies, arms and legs potentially blocking the shot. Bishop’s Stortford were playing London Irish Wild Geese and Chris Aldam was particularly unhappy with his opponent, who then got a face palm for his troubles.
This picture epitomises the contrast between agony and ecstasy. The Great Northern, members of the Welwyn Hatfield Sunday League, were playing in the Hertfordshire Sunday Senior County Cup Final against Skew Bridge, holders for three successive seasons, and widely considered the best Sunday team in Hertfordshire. Having taken an early lead, The Great Northern were pegged back as Skew Bridge became more and more dominant in the match. Skew Bridge scored their second goal early in the second half, and being at the ‘wrong end’ for a celebration, I chose to focus on the dejection of Great Northern in the foreground, with celebrations out of focus in the background.
Since being promoted to National 1, Bishop’s Stortford RFC have performed admirably and won several very close contests against more celebrated opponents. They hosted Darlington Mowden Park in November and were five points behind with about a minute left to play, when Nick Hankin showed a clean set of heels to the Darlington defence to level the score. I love how animated the bench are in the background! Sadly on this day they missed the conversion so the match ended in a draw but it was another result where Stortford were said to be punching above their weight.