TIM Piper made it to 450 not out for Burnham-on-Sea RFC on Saturday, and the 39-year-old is far from finished with the Stags.

Fly-half Piper helped his side to a 71-0 win over Weston 2nds and said a good performance was as important as his 450th appearance milestone on the day.

He told the Weekly News: “The week before, our loss at Minehead had ended our unbeaten run, so a lot of our focus was getting back on track.

“I didn’t play well [at Minehead], so I had to put in a better performance this week.

“It was still nice to reflect on it, and receive well wishes and messages of good luck from around the rugby community.

“I felt very touched, it was very humbling.”

It’s that focus on the performance which has helped Piper and Burnham build an imposing lead at the top of the Somerset Premier table.

A record of 18 wins from 19 league games this season sees the Stags sitting 19 points clear and, barring a catastrophic late season collapse, they will earn promotion back up to Western Counties level for 2020/21.

Few, if any, are as well placed as Piper to reflect on Burnham’s ups and downs over the last couple of decades.

He made his 1st XV debut for Burnham as a 16-year-old in 1996, a match he “remembers vividly”.

“We were against Hornets 2nds or 3rds,” he said.

“It was a dark, grey day, and I was in a shirt four sizes too big for me - what an introduction to senior rugby!”

Clearly Piper was not put off as, even when offered the opportunity to play elsewhere, he couldn’t stay away.

“I was at Bridgwater & Albion for six months, as our coach Elisi Vunipola [uncle of England internationals Billy and Mako] encouraged me and Richard Muskett to try it.

“But it didn’t feel right - whereas Burnham just feels like home - and we both came back.

“Everyone [at Burnham] is friendly, my family have grown up around the club, and I’ve found the best friends you could ask for.”

Piper said that there had been many great moments at the club, but two highlights stand out for him.

“Last year we won the Somerset Vase, 10 years on from losing the final.

“Then there was our first season in Somerset Premier, in 2008/09, and I was team captain.

“Our aim had been to stay in the division - and we won the title with a couple of games to spare!”

Burnham’s stay at Western Counties level ended in 2017/18, when the Stags finished bottom of the pile having only won four league games all season.

That relegation allowed the club to hit the ‘refresh button’, as last year’s Somerset Vase victory and this campaign’s table-topping exploits have demonstrated.

“We were lucky to survive relegation the season before [2016/17] - it was coming,” Piper said.

“So we had to throw the youngsters in, put our faith in them, and the lads have shown great commitment.

“I’ve played with some fantastic players here, but this is the best team I’ve been involved with now.

“We had a bit of an honest chat after the relegation, about commitment and effort, and everyone’s bought into the ethos.”

Piper has been working as assistant coach to Kevin Innals, and is relishing the role.

“It’s very rewarding when you see the lads take in what you’re saying.

“You also learn a lot about yourself and your own game - it’s been very enjoyable.”

He added: “I’ve also been more involved in the club committee.

“It would be very difficult for me to walk away from the game completely after all this time - a big thanks goes to my wife for putting up with rugby every Saturday, and being such a huge support to me - so I would look to keep in the loop with coaching.

“But as long as I’m good enough, and I deserve my place in the team, I won’t give up the jersey without a fight.”

And with Burnham moving forward off the pitch - Piper points to better facilities and an expanding youth section - they look well positioned to make an impact at a higher level, whether that’s with Piper pulling the strings on the pitch or from the touchline.