Preview to Cinderford (h) 21-01-1219/01/2012
Raging Bulls, Old Farts and Crowded Buses
Former drayman Andy Deacon, who turned to pro rugby in his early 30s when the game went professional, probably gets bought a fair few pints when he's back at his old stomping ground, Kingsholm in Gloucester. But he may get the freedom of the county if he can deliver ('cos he was a drayman, you see) a double for Cinderford over league leaders Jersey.
The 20th round of this season's exciting ride in SSE National League One - 10 games to go after this - sees a rematch between the teams who squared up at the Beavis Memorial Ground in early October.
The loss in early October, of which more anon, was Jersey's most-recent defeat, and the subsequent run of 13 straight wins has brought the Islanders to the top of the table, a fraction ahead of Fylde who themselves lead Rosslyn Park by a hair's breadth, with Ealing a smidge further behind and Macc a whisker adrift of them. It's close, if you hadn't established my drift.
This weekend's game is the second home match on successive Saturdays at St Peter. This quirk of the fixture list may not trouble the players, but some of the spectators, especially members at the pre-match lunch, are less finely-tuned athletes who may have more trouble adjusting to another day at the coal-face after last weekend's exertions. Several are still recovering from the 4pm kick-off against Old Albanians last April. Early signs are that Rioja sales are holding up for the Old Farts' lunch table, while the club manager has industrial-strength Rennie and sedatives for sale behind the bar and auxiliary nursing staff on stand-by.
News from the Jersey camp
The wins over Ealing and Rosslyn Park that have followed the Christmas break have been full-on encounters, with some fresh injury concerns undoing the benefits of the three-week break from competitive action.
Having said that, the hope is that Director or Rugby Ben Harvey may be able to select a squad moreorless unchanged from last Saturday's outlet.
The main concern involves indomitable hooker Dave Felton, who was in a wheelchair the day after Ealing, and limped off before half-time against Park, but continues his impersonation of the Black Knight in Monty Python, reassuring interested parties that "it's just a flesh wound"...
The hope is that injured parties such as Mike Le Bourgeois and Dai Bishop may be back in contention for the trip to Wharfedale next week, or certainly for the first game of February which follows a free weekend on February 4th.
Regular readers will know that since early December the answer to this question has always been yes.
Jersey headed to the Forest of Dean, an island of sorts (though not technically surrounded by water) in darkest Gloucestershire, on October 1st, and the first half of the game was a tight affair. When Jersey went down to 14 men as a result of a yellow card for Kingsley Lang, the home team turned the screw at a five-metre scrum and were awarded a penalty try, their only such score of the season-to-date and I believe the only concession of a PT by a Jersey side more used to scoring them (6 this season thus far).
Mikey Le Bourgeois scored a third penalty to make it 13-9 at the break, but the boot of Rory Teague extended the lead to 16-9, which the Foresters held until four minutes from the end when 'Le Booj' crossed from a quick penalty, kicked the conversion and apparently secured a draw for the visitors.
Teague had either ideas however, and showing the family cojones that made his uncle Mike such a popular figure at Gloucester, the fly-half banged over a 55-metre penalty from more than 50 metres to decide the match.
Jersey's potential two points for a draw were cut to just one losing bonus, and the trip ended up at minus 4 when it was realised that Australian forward Ashley Elphinston had been erroneously selected and the RFU imposed a five-point deduction. Cinderford supporters who meet Jersey counterparts who say they have bad memories of visiting Gloucestershire shouldn't take it personally.
Cinderford in 2011/12
The win over Jersey was the first of the season for the Foresters, who had a tough start with five straight defeats, although five bonus points were also garnered during this spell.
Once the duck had been broken, the next few weeks saw further success at the expense of Stourbridge, Blaydon (a 58-22 gubbing) and Barking, but then fears of relegation resurfaced with four successive defeats in late November and the start of December.
The form graph has since snaked sharply upwards again, with wins over Birmingham Bees (40-0 at home), on the road at Blackheath (20-18) and at home to Ealing last weekend.
Saturday's game at Dockham Rd saw Trailfinders lead by 24-15 at one point, with Cinderford's tries by Will Foden and prop Joe Smart, the latter throwing an outrageous dummy that brought warnings of expulsion from the front row union. But further tries by MoM George Evans and Mike Wilcox, the latter a thrilling run from 75 metres out, gave the home team the lead.
Phil Chesters - who else?! - had already scored once for Ealing, and looked set to do so again until he was hauled down with an amazing match-saving tackle by Nev Codlin.
Director of Rugby Deacon began his second season in charge with a number of new faces. Those who have played significant roles thus far include: Tom Bozzard (hooker, Coney Hill); Tom Heard (prop, loan from Gloucester Rugby); Will Foden (back row, Hartpury); Rory Teague (fly half, FC Grenoble); Mike Wilcox (fly half, loan from Bristol RFC); Kai Done (winger, Launceston); Simeon James (centre, Rotherham).
The most high-profile signing came in December when Phil Vickery took time off from his flourishing catering career to become a coaching consultant alongside his former front-row mucker at 'Glaws'. The England World Cup winner has attended two games and a few training sessions and been credited with the Foresters' 100% record since then, but as Deacon has pointed out, as long as the wins are coming he's not worried who gets the credit for them. In response, Vickery asked the DoR if he'd like a little more celeriac jus with his crayfish and aubergine mille-feuille.
Sadly, in spite of the chance of preparing some seafood appetisers for his team's pre-match snack, Vickery misses the trip to Jersey, and deprives the hosts of the chance to add another big name to this season's guest-list.
Deacon hopes, like his Jersey counterpart, to make few if any changes to last week's line-up, and as announced today (Thursday) it is:
1 Joe Smart
2 Tom Bozzard
3 Yann Thomas
4 Ben West
5 Ed King
6 Adam Nicholls (capt)
7 Will Foden
8 George Evans
9 Danny Pointon
10 Rory Teague
11 Lloyd Stapleton
12 Robbie Winchle
13 Simeon James
14 Nevaro Codlin
15 Mike Wilcox
Replacements: Sam Wilkes, Tom Heard, Luke Allen, Ben Draper, Dewi Scourfield
History of Cinderford RFC
Cinderford RFC has a long and distinguished history being formed in 1886. The Club's fortunes and that of the local mining community were closely linked and both declined during the inter-war years with a number of local rugby heroes 'going north' to seek their fortunes in rugby league. The club re-emerged after the Second World War and regained their Dockham Road home in 1956. Fifty years of hard work and the foresight of a few individuals have furnished the club with a well-appointed ground that is the envy of many.
Perhaps the best-known figure in re-establishing the club after the war was the legendary Club Secretary Mary Beavis who gave more than 50 years' service and was honoured after her death in 2010, at the age of 82, by having the ground at Dockham Road named the Beavis Memorial Ground. It's not known (by me) how many other grounds are named after lady officials, but probably very few and it's a credit to a much-loved figure in Gloucestershire rugby circles.
Cinderford started the 'noughties' playing in South-West Division One, went up to Level Four in 2005, and in 2007/08 were promoted to Level Three after winning their last 13 games of the regular season. This earned a play-off against Darlington Mowden Park, won 15-14 by the Foresters.
In 2008/09, the club surprised many with a strong showing in their first season at the new level, winning 19 games and ending up fifth. But several members of the squad departed in summer 2009, and the following campaign saw Cinderford end up in 12th campaign. Player-coach Deacon played 23 games that season before hanging up his boots just before his 45th birthday.
Last season was one of two halves, Cinderford had only three wins prior to Christmas but then won nine out of 12 to ease relegation fears that were finally eliminated courtesy of a bonus point against Barking in the final game. The club ended up 12th with 63 points.
* Andy Deacon is Phil Vickery's boss at Cinderford, but in his other job he reports into Vickery at sportswear company Raging Bull
* Winger Nev Codlin was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK aged four. This sparked registration issues in 2009/10 when incorrectly-completed RFU paperwork led to Codlin's suspension and the loss of 10 league points. Codlin returned to action last season and was named Player of the Year
* Rory Teague has scored 143 points from kicks this season, putting him second in the rankings for National One, plus four tries
* Cinderford's all-time records point scorer Danny Trigg has amassed around 1,200 points since his first game in 2003 and has made a handful of appearances for the club this season
* Jersey's James Copsey played three seasons for the Foresters starting in 2006/07, scoring an estimated 26 tries in around 60 games.
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Cinderford through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's Sportscene from 6-7pm on Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon. Even available in the Forest of Dean for those who are online.
• Preview in Friday's JEP, further build-up in Saturday's Inside Centre pull-out, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon, either just before or just after 5pm depending on how many times the ref stops his watch
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online.
The Jersey v Rosslyn Park game last Saturday attracted a fairly large crowd. In fact 3,648 was the official figure. This has been much-discussed, with various comparisons of other sporting arenas around the world, so I won't add to all the hullabaloo - impressive though this number was.
The message for this Saturday is for spectators to take heed of the numbers and aim to get to the ground early. There'll be extra entrances, more catering staff, additional toilets and pre-match entertainment in the form of mini-rugby and a kicking competition. Advance tickets can be purchased from the club on tonight (Thursday) from 6 to 9pm and tomorrow from 10am to 1pm, while they are also available during office hours on Friday from the JEP at Five Oaks or Red Properties on the Esplanade by Liberation Bus Station.
Talking of buses, think about using the #9 or #15 services to get to St Peter - details of these and car parking are posted elsewhere on this news section.
Phew! Enjoy your weekend's rugby...