THE last three seasons have witnessed some turnaround at Burnham-on-Sea Rugby Club.

The 2017/18 campaign ended with the Stags sitting rock bottom of the Western Counties West table, after just four wins all year, but next season they will be back in that division.

That’s after 21 wins out of 22 games this season, as Burnham were crowned Somerset Premier champions.

So what’s changed in that time? The Weekly News spoke to club stalwart Tim Piper to gain an insight into the transformation.

Reflecting on the disappointing 2017/18 campaign, Piper said: “The quality was there, but we lacked consistency and were hit with a lot of injuries.

“We had to throw a lot of Colts [young players] in.”

The young players who were blooded in that season were part of a talented crop of players coming through, and their emergence has been crucial in the Stags’ recent success - winning the Somerset Vase last season and this league title this year.

“All of the Colts players stayed on, as they’re Burnham lads through and through,” said Piper.

“One game this season we had 14 players who had come through the Burnham youth system.

“Some of them are among the first names on the teamsheet now.

“Back rower James Havercroft is something special with the tackles and workrate that he puts in - you would think he had been playing 20 years.

“He’s matured so well, and I’ve never seen anyone tackle like him - nothing gets past him.

“Ryan Beard was Colts captain four or five years ago, and has been phenomenal for the last two years.

“His tries per game ratio is superb - he’s a try machine.

“We also had two Morganians lads - Will Hopkins and Stef Pierce - come over for the 2018/19 season.

“They added a lot of quality and strength up front, and I think Stef has only missed one game in the last two years.”

In addition to the players’ hard work, head coach Kevin Inalls has also made his influence felt.

Piper said: “He came in at the start of the 2017/18 season.

“His impact has been brilliant.

“Sometimes rugby training can be robotic, but he doesn’t have us doing loads of running or fitness work - we do everything with the ball.

“Everything is done in game scenarios, so it’s enjoyable.

“He’s also willing to throw in the young lads.”

Inalls’ coaching methods are ideally suited to the team, Piper believes.

He explained: “Burnham, as long as I’ve been playing here, have never been renowned for physicality and big forwards.

“We’ve always been a mobile and running rugby side - we want to play the full length and width of our big pitch.”

Off the pitch, there has also been progress, which helps attract new players to the club.

“Twelve years ago we extended the clubhouse and put in new changing rooms,” Piper added.

“Four or five years ago we put in a new stand and floodlights.

“We’re lucky to have a strong and hard-working committee behind us.

“We don’t own our ground [it is owned by the Burnham Association of Sports Clubs (BASC)], but they let us do what we want to do because they know we will improve the ground.

“We don’t have the financial clout to pay players, so we’ve got to make sure that when players come here, they want to stay.

“Hot showers, clean changing rooms and a flat pitch make a difference!”

Looking ahead, Piper believes the team is capable of thriving - not just surviving - at Western Counties level.

“We will be in Western Counties West; there are four or five big trips, but otherwise it’s similar to the travelling we would be doing in Western Counties North," he said.

“We’re working in the background to plan things - travel, ensuring players have what they need, a big welcome for visiting clubs next season.

“Every year there are things we can improve on, but I think this playing group is capable of achieving something special.”

Piper added: "We have a few key workers as members of the club, and we are so grateful to them.

“As a club, we want to express our thanks to them.”