BAILDON RUFC are excited to play their first game back in Yorkshire Two this afternoon, nearly 18 months after promotion was confirmed.

And what a start it is for Jake Duxbury’s men, as they face a trip to recently-relegated Bradford District rivals Keighley.

Player/head coach Duxbury is glad to be facing them first up, saying: “Keighley are actually my old club, who I left to join Baildon, so I’m excited to return.

“It might even be the first time we’ve ever played each other in a competitive game.

“There’s no tougher test in Yorkshire Two really, and with the players Keighley have got at their disposal, they’ll be looking to bounce straight back up.

“But we’re looking forward to the game, as we get to see where we are as a squad.”

And Duxbury was honest when assessing his side’s chances this season, saying: “We’ve kept the core of our team, and added a couple of others, but the first goal is consolidating this year.

“Eight or nine years ago we got promoted from Yorkshire Three and came straight back down pretty unceremoniously, so the first target is to avoid that happening again.

“But we’re confident in where we’re at, with our aim being to embed ourselves into Yorkshire Two going forward.”

Duxbury and pretty much everyone involved in amateur rugby union will be desperate for a normal season, with today marking the first competitive league action the sport has seen since March 2020.

Talking about the last 18 months at Baildon, Duxbury said: “We’ve been away for so long and there were so many ups and downs in that time.

“You’d be getting told you could return, and then all of a sudden, you couldn’t, so it’s very exciting to be back this weekend, and we’ll be putting a couple of teams out.

“Personnel wise, we’ve made a few new additions to the squad, but a few lads have left to chase employment and money elsewhere, which you can’t blame them for.”

He added: “One thing I would say is that there’s been a real sense of community at Baildon over the last 18 months.

“The players were always coming down to do things like sort the changing rooms out, and run mini-sessions for age group sides at the club.

“I wouldn’t say it was a surprise, but it was good to see all that happening, as it helped rugby to continue in some form at the club.”

The first team have of course been playing some rugby union in the last year and a half, with Duxbury explaining: “As soon as we were allowed groups of six, we did that, even though it was a nightmare to manage.

“We did everything once the next steps of the roadmap were announced, so we did non-contact rugby when that was allowed, and played a series of games against local clubs using those rules, which was really nice.

“When we got the all clear for contact rugby, we had three more games against local clubs, and then from then, it’s all been focused on getting ready for this season in Yorkshire Two.”

Elsewhere, North One East sides Bradford & Bingley and Cleckheaton entertain Morley and Durham City respectively in their season openers today.

In the same division, Ilkley host Consett.

Up in Yorkshire One, Bradford Salem host Roundhegians in their opening fixture, while Wibsey welcome Hemsworth for their first Yorkshire Three clash.

In North Premier, Otley entertain York.