Wanstead RFC enjoyed a day to remember when the North West's former England and Lions wing John Bentley gave a motivational team-talk ahead of their final game of the season.
After club chairman Martin Curry won a nationwide competition in association with SSE, Bentley – who won two Lions Test caps on the 1997 tour to South Africa – spent the day with the players ahead of their battle with rivals Sudbury RUFC.
The four-time England international addressed the players pre-game, inspiring them to a 38-17 victory.
Captain David Moran admitted Bentley’s attendance had been a once in a lifetime experience, and one he would never forget.
“It’s not every day you get a former international to give you a team talk and it was great that John came along for our last game of the season,” said prop Moran, of Hornchurch.
“The scrum won it for us today as we pushed the opposition off the ball and I think that might have been down to John.
“He basically said to us to seize the moment out on the field and not to let ourselves come back into the changing rooms without having given everything.
“He didn’t talk about winning the game but that’s what we did because we got our performance right and played really well.”
Bentley, 45, had a glittering career as a player. As well as playing for England and the Lions he won the Premiership with Newcastle Falcons in 1998 and represented Great Britain at rugby league.
Memorably, he scored a fine solo try on the Lions’ 1997 tour of South Africa, against the Golden Lions.
And drawing on his experiences of what it takes to win at the top level of the sport, Bentley stressed the importance of playing without fear as he delivered his team talk to Wanstead.
“I didn’t have to fire them up too much,” said Bentley.
“I just told them that rugby’s about playing and you can’t be inhibited or worried about making a mistake on the pitch.
“Mistakes happen, it’s about what you do before and after which people will judge you on.
“It was great watching them play because they really got stuck into the opposition and they didn’t let up, even when they conceded a try close to half-time.
“It’s been great getting to know them too because they’re a good bunch of lads and the community game is so important to the state of the sport in this country.”
JOHN BENTLEY: SSE Rugby ambassador inspires Wanstead RFC
John Bentley is an ambassador for SSE Rugby, supporting community rugby clubs in England. Register now on www.sserugby.com to start benefiting from the support and resources on offer, and the chance to win £10,000 of free SSE energy credits for your club