Despite the premature end to this season’s National 2 North season after 25 games, forcing the RFU to work out an adjusted table for the final standings, Caldy’s claim to the title was indisputable.
The Ravers won all 25 of their games on their way to promotion and a spot in National League 1 next season. Fylde finished a distant second and missed out on promotion, with National 2 South’s Taunton Titans and Tonbridge Juddians joining Caldy in going up.
At the other end of the table, Otley, Preston Grasshoppers and Scunthorpe all suffered relegation.One of those clubs still has a player in our XV but it won’t be a shock to see Caldy dominate this team.
15. Rhys Hayes – Caldy
A classy playmaker, Hayes was an almost unanimous choice from TRP correspondents at full-back after playing a major part in Caldy’s unstoppable charge to the title.
A silky distributer and regular try-scorer – he notched eight this season – Hayes added an extra edge to Caldy’s superb attack, which scored 1002 points from 25 games, stepping into the backline to dovetail dangerously with fly-half Lewis Barker.
Reliable when kicking from hand and a sturdy tackler, he edges out Loughborough’s Will Kaye and should step up to National 1 comfortably.
14. Dan Rundle – Stourbridge
Stourbridge’s super-charged winger, Rundle, above, was arguably the star of the entire division but couldn’t drag the Midlands side into promotion contention.
But for the campaign’s premature conclusion, Rundle surely would have broken Nick Royle’s single-season try record in National 2 North (32) after dotting down 30 times in 25 games.
Rundle boasts a scintillating turn of speed and is almost unstoppable when in full flow, leading to several spectacular tries from his own 22.
13. Tom Carleton – Fylde
As smooth as they come, Carleton – son of ex-England and Lions winger John – oozed class all season for the Lancashire side, who mounted a serious promotion bid.
Although they would have fallen short of Caldy, coronavirus robbed them off a play-off match against the runners-up of National 2 South.
Carleton’s 23 tries were bettered only by Rundle and Caldy’s Nick Royle, while his distribution helped set up several others for Connor Wilkinson.
Caldy duo Mike Barlow and Gav Roberts just miss out.
12. Jamie Broadley – Sheffield Tigers
It was a season of frustration for Sheffield Tigers, who were only four points clear of relegation when the season was scrapped.
The final league table placed them tenth and player/head coach Jamie Broadley played a key role in their survival on and off the field as he quietly put together another excellent season.
He crossed for 12 tries – no other Tigers played scored more than eight – thanks to a quick turn of pace and clever support line running, which gets him the nod ahead of Loughborough Students’ talented pair Dan Kelly and Josh Lewis.
11. Nick Royle – Caldy
He is 36 now but former England Sevens try-scoring machine Royle still has it.
He scored 26 tries, including four in a match on two occasions – at home to Luctonians in October and Scunthorpe in February.
Royle might have lost a yard of pace from his prime – though he is still lightning quick – but that nose for the try-line remains and he edges out his team-mate Ben Jones and Loughborough’s Will Brown.
10. Lewis Barker – Caldy
The heartbeat of the Caldy team, Barker ran an attack that blitzed all before them. Caldy put up more than 50 points on six occasions – including an 103-0 win against Scunthorpe – and Barker’s leadership and crisp distribution with both hand and foot left defences scrambling.
Hull’s Simon Humberstone controls games with his kicking from hand, Owen Waters pulls the strings for Loughborough and Sheffield Tigers’ Mark Ireland is a machine from the tee but Barker is the choice.
9. Cam Davies – Caldy
Wharfedale’s Sam Gaudie is unfortunate to miss out here but Davies was the cream of the crop at scrum-half this season.
The 24-year-old joined the club in September and put together a fine campaign, scoring 11 tries from 19 appearances.
A powerful runner and effective defender, Davies has been compared to Wales’ Mike Phillips in how he operates.
1. Joe Altham – Wharfedale
Altham received multiple votes, such has been his impact at Wharfedale this season. The 29-year-old helped make their scrum one of the strongest in the division but to pigeonhole him as just a scrum specialist would be unfair.
A strong tackler and ever-eager ball-carrier, the former Loughborough star played a key part in Wharfedale’s run to ninth this season.
2. Jack Lea – Stourbridge
A prolific try-scorer this season, Jack Lea is something a pocket dynamo for Stourbridge.
The hooker is virtually impossible to stop when taking crash ball close to the line with his low centre of gravity, which accounts for most of his tries – an impressive 15 this term.
Caldy’s Ollie Hearn is among those unfortunate to miss out.
3. Ben Bootham – Hull
Hull’s form largely depended on whether tighthead Bootham was playing, such was his influence on the East Yorkshire side.
As good a scrummager as there is in the league, Bootham got the better of most of his opponents and played a major role in Hull’s climb from relegation candidates to mid-table. They went seven games without a win when he was injured in the autumn before he returned and helped steer them to eighth.
4. Cameron Boon – Loughborough Students
A Saracens academy product, Boon has come on leaps and bounds this season at the heart of Loughborough’s pack.
A talented lineout operator, Boon displayed impressive leadership while his physicality in defence stood out.
The Students, relegated from National 1 last season, finished fifth after 14 wins from 25 games and that helped Boon pip Hull’s Mr Consistency Liam Regardsoe for this spot.
5. Alex Salt – Hinckley
Captain, leader and Hinckley legend – Salt was once again immense for the Leicestershire club this season. Salt, who has been captain since 2015 and can also play in the back row, lifts those around him and thrives in the biggest games.
A smooth lineout operator, strong tackler and relentless competitor, he played a key role in Hinckley’s run to third, which included ten straight victories.
6. Adam Aigbokhae – Caldy
Aigbokhae spent much of last season playing at openside, but a shift across the back row might suit him even better.
A player with Herculean strength, he was a menace at the breakdown last season and even chipped in with 11 tries – including eight in seven games across Christmas and January.
The 31-year-old is a former Ireland Students star and he is chosen ahead of Hull’s defensive rock Tom O’Donnell and Loughborough’s Matt Wilkinson.
7. Ryan Carlson – Preston Grasshoppers
Preston suffered relegation this season and compiled only four wins but South African flanker Carlson shone from September through to March.
A turnover specialist, Carlson wreaked havoc at the breakdown all season, spying the right ruck to attack thanks to an impressive reading of the game.
Keeping hold of the man nicknamed ‘the Lion’ by Hoppers fans will be key to their hopes of bouncing straight back up.
8. JJ Dickinson – Caldy
Dickinson is everything you want in a No.8: a hard-running and hard-tackling man mountain at the back of the pack. The Caldy skipper scored 17 tries and helped set up so many others, with powerful carries through the heart of the opposition creating space for 9 and 10 Davies and Barker to exploit.
The 30-year-old, who joined in 2016, finished the season strongly, with four tries in Caldy’s final three games.