Preview to Doncaster (A)30/11/2012
Guide Us Clive, Thou Great Redeemer
Pilgrim to This Barren Land
We are Knights, and they are Jersey
Nine points each, with Trembling Hands
Bread of Heaven? Yorkshire Puddings? We prefer to eat Cow Pie
As is well-known, the RFU Championship remains without a sponsor. Given that Jersey and Doncaster go into tomorrow night's crucial encounter (t' crunch, as they're referring to it in Yorkshire) with scarcely a cigarette paper between them, I wonder if Rizla might be tempted?
Perhaps Rizla might not be ideal in other respects - various smoking-related health concerns, the fact that leaders Newcastle are whole reams of fag papers clear at the top, I could (and often do) go on... but the margins are certainly tight enough when it comes t' crunch.
Both clubs can be traced back to the 1870s, and have enjoyed spectacular rises up the RFU pyramid since leagues began 25 years ago. Donny's rise from Yorkshire Two/ level 10 underwrites their claim to be the most promoted side in rugby history, while Jersey can trace their rise back to Hampshire One/ level 8.
Both sides had tough starts to their Championship campaigns - Jersey's first at this level, Doncaster in their eighth campaign since the run of promotions came to a halt - for the moment at least - in 2005. Both gained their first league win at the seventh time of asking on the last weekend of October, and are now locked together at the foot of the table - nine points each, and spookily-similar points records, Jersey having scored 158 points and conceded 308, Donny on 157/ 307. Jersey currently get the edge thanks to having two wins thus far, while the home team's points haul come from one win, a draw and three bonus points.
The match that completes the first half of the league programme for each side could be a key factor in determining who is relegated to National One in April, although there will be many other twists and turns to come, and other clubs involved.
To spice things up further there is a new man in charge on the playing side at Castle Park - the returning Welsh supremo Clive Griffiths (a.k.a the Great Redeemer Pt II, pictured above), anxious to stabilise the ship after a heavy defeat against Nottingham last weekend.
And the 'former players' box is ticked on three counts: flanker Jethro Rawling played three games for Jersey last season during a brief loan spell from Leicester; scrum-half Nicky Griffiths had a season with the Knights in 2009/10, making nine appearances; but the list is headed by Steve Boden - Jersey's hooker spent seven seasons at Castle Park up until last summer, making around 200 appearances and scoring 18 tries, including 10 in 2007/08. See picture below of 'Bodes' in his free-scoring youth.
This is Jersey's fourth trip to Yorkshire in less than three months, with many of the players who've been on every trip now adopting convincing Yorkshire accents, listening to brass band music on their headphones on the team coach and telling anyone who'll listen about how many Olympic medals 'their' county won at London 2012.
The distance, and the Friday night scheduling, may limit the size of the visiting support, but the Island media is once again set to do Jersey proud, with live BBC Radio commentary, streaming on the Channel TV website, tweets from @jerseyrfc and a full report in the Jersey Evening Post on Saturday.
It looks set to be a chilly evening in South Yorkshire, with temperatures around freezing during the game, but frost covers have been used by the home side who have expressed no concerns about 'getting it on'. Spectators are advised to wrap up warm, and take on plentiful quantities of warming cow pie, la spécialité de la maison at Castle Park.
News from the Jersey Camp
Jersey Director of Rugby Ben Harvey brings in fresh faces at half-back and back-row as he seeks the winning formula for the clash with Doncaster.
Fly-half Mike Le Bourgeois, one of the form players for the Islanders this season until he was injured at Bristol three weeks ago, is back at number 10 and will be partnered by former Doncaster scrum-half Nicky Griffiths (pictured below).
Flanker Kingsley Lang and number 8 Guy Thompson are back in the starting line-up after being rested for the encounter with Newcastle Falcons last weekend - the pair are joined in Jersey's back-row by Paul Rodgers, a second-half replacement against the Falcons.
Two other replacements from the 3-24 loss to Newcastle, centre Dai Bishop and skipper Nathan Hannay in the engine room, complete the changes along with ex-Knight, Steve Boden - the experienced hooker gets the nod in spite of an impressive showing by Dave Felton on Saturday.
Jersey's bench features the 5:2 split of forwards and backs that Harvey has favoured for much of the campaign, with all seven replacements having been involved in the Newcastle game.
"There have been some difficult calls in selection," admitted Harvey. "Some players really put their hands up against Newcastle, such as the starting props, and deserve another chance, but I've also got some players who've been in great form this season, such as Thompson and Le Bourgeois, who I wanted to get back into the side.
"I'm sure Doncaster will be motivated, with a new man-in-charge
[Director of Rugby Clive Griffiths] and back in front of their home
fans after a big defeat last weekend, but I can't control that - I
want my boys to focus on what they have to do, and if they perform
to their collective ability then I'm confident we can achieve the
Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and jersey.com
1 Richard Barrington
2 Steve Boden
3 Jon Brennan
4 Dave Markham
5 Nathan Hannay (capt)
6 Paul Rodgers
7 Kingsley Lang
8 Guy Thompson
9 Nicky Griffiths
10 Mike Le Bourgeois
11 Ed Dawson
12 Dai Bishop
13 Donovan Sanders
14 Ed Tellwright
15 Glenn Bryce
16 Dave Felton
17 Sean McCarthy
18 James Gethings
19 James Voss
20 Fred Silcock
21 Dave McCormack
22 Barry Davies
Doncaster in 2012/13
After a busy summer of pre-season training, new signings and friendlies against Newcastle, Gloucester (both lost) and Cambridge (won), Knights started their Championship campaign at Plymouth on September 1st, taking a bonus point from a 27-22 defeat. Bristol, Newcastle and London Scottish were next in line, resulting in three further losses, although the nine-point margins in two of these games signalled bonus points which had got away.
The first positive result of the season was an 18-18 home draw against Cornish Pirates, although this was a game Knights looked set to win until a 79th-minute Kieran Hallett penalty squared the ledger.
After a 42-7 reverse at Leeds, the B&I Cup offered a fresh opportunity, but Scottish visitors Melrose claimed a 30-29 triumph at Castle Park before Knights sneaked down the M1 and grabbed a 27-13 win over Nottingham in a game where they were clearly the more motivated side. This desire carried through to the return to Championship action on home soil when Moseley were beaten 24-16. After going down 38-20 at Rotherham, a second home win looked on the cards against Bedford, only for a last-gasp Josh Bassett try and Brendan Burke conversion sealed a fortunate win for the Blues.
Last Sunday Doncaster made their second trip of the season to Meadow Lane and this time finished a distant second, Jethro Rawling's try being the lone score in a 52-7 defeat.
Clive Griffiths, back at Castle Park as Director of Professional Rugby, has selected his first Knights team since his return to Castle Park for the clash with Jersey.
Griffiths has named a largely unchanged side from the one that lost out to Nottingham last week, although one key adjustment sees new signing Connor Braid start at full back. The Canadian, one of several Canucks now involved in the Championship, played in the recent international series at Colwyn Bay and has a total of four caps.
In the centres, Jersey will encounter the Zimbabwe-born former Loughborough Student Edward 'Dante' Mama, formerly on the books at Leicester, and James Tincknell, a former Premiership player with Leeds who is one of three players in the squad who played for Wharfedale when Jersey visited in January, the others being replacements Ben Sowery (hooker) and Tom Barrett (utility back).
The experienced number 9 Chris Hallam is in his fifth season as a Knight, while fly-half Jamie Lennard, though only 25, is in his second stint at Castle Park and has played for six other clubs in his career to date, including Premiership and Heineken Cup experience with London Irish. He's this season's top-scorer with 11 conversions and 15 penalties.
Doncaster's pack is unchanged from the trip to Meadow Lane - Jersey should watch out for combative hooker Rhys Buckley, a summer signing from the Dragons, and fellow Welshman Tom Davies in the loose-head spot. Number 8 Chris Planchant has been with Knights since 2007 and is approaching his 100th appearance, while skipper Matt Challinor, who plays lock, played for Harrogate, Morley and Rotherham before signing for Doncaster in summer 2010.
Doncaster Knights: 15 Connor Braid, 14 Dougie
Flockhart, 13 Dante Mama, 12 James Tincknell, 11 Tyson Lewis, 10
Jamie Lennard, 9 Chris Hallam, 1 Tom Davies, 2 Rhys Buckley, 3
Tomas Francis, 4 Matt Challinor (C), 5 Dominic Parsons, 6 Adam
Kettle, 7 Jethro Rawling, 8 Chris Planchant
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowery, 17 Jack Bergmanas, 18 Brian McGovern, 19 Phil Hoy, 20 David Bradford, 21 Louis Silver, 22 Tom Barrett
History of Doncaster RFC
Doncaster Rugby Football Club were founded in 1875. The club led a nomadic existence for the first 50 or so years, playing at various sites in the area. There was even a short spell as a Northern Union club, dabbling on what might be known in other areas (but not a rugby league stronghold) as 'the dark side'.
In the early 1920s DRFC moved to a site near the town centre where it shared a ground with the cricket club, as is the case to this day at Clifton Lane for local rivals Rotherham. This uneasy liaison lasted for 30 years before the club moved to its existing ground at Armthorpe Road, some three miles away from the town. What started as a single pitch, two changing rooms and a small clubroom facility evolved over the years into the first-rate facility that it is today, catering not only for the professional Knights, but also amateur sides and a thriving junior section that now has more than 400 members.
Key milestones in the evolution of Castle Park were the opening of the new clubhouse in 2000 and the completion of the De Mulder Lloyd Stand in January 2009.
The pre-league era was for the most part a constant story with highlights including success in the Yorkshire Shield, the county cup competition for junior sides, in 1979.
1987 was a year of innovation in rugby union, with the inaugural World Cup, followed a few months later by the introduction of the national leagues. Donny took their place in Yorkshire Two, or level 10 on the national pyramid. Jersey were at level eight at this stage - London Four South-West - but were relegated within a season to Hampshire One.
Within two years Doncaster were up to Yorkshire One, and then the early 1990s saw three consecutive promotions drawing on a 'home-grown' policy that utilised former members of an all-conquering colts side.
On the international stage, two more World Cup cycles had passed and the game turned professional, with the first paid employee at Castle Park being Player-Coach Kevin Westgarth in summer 1996. The following season saw 22 straight wins in North Two, and it was nearly another promotion the following season only for New Brighton to take the North One title on points difference. In 1998/99 they went one better: promoted to the National League (level four) and also winning the (senior) Yorkshire Cup by beating Sandal in the final.
While the majority of the players remained home-grown, imported coaching talent was a feature of the 'noughties', first with former Bristol stalwart Derek Eves and then a succession of Welsh Coaches that made Doncaster second only to the Patagonian town of Puerto Madryn as a small corner of the Valleys far from home (or in this case a few hours up the motorway).
Kingsley Jones was the man-in-charge in 2003/04 and the final promotion - so far - of the club's ascent was achieved under South African successor Pieter Muller in April 2005. The first season at level two ended with a respectable finish, and in summer 2006 Clive Griffiths became Director of Rugby. There was something of the Great Redeemer in the new man as he guided the newly-rebranded Knights to third-place in the league, the only down side being rival calls from those in need of redemption, with Griffiths joining fellow countryman 'Razor' Ruddock at Worcester in summer 2007.
Another Welshman, Lynn Howells, was appointed DoR ahead of the 2007/08 season in which Donny were fourth, with Howells assisted by Italian Massimo Cuttita and former London Irish player Justin Bishop, and the following season they survived the 'culling' of four clubs from level two as The Championship was founded.
Since then Knights have finished 7th (2010) 6th (2011) and 8th (last season), leading to three appearances in the now-defunct promotion play-offs - there was little success in 09/10 or 11/12, but the season in between saw Howells' side just a point adrift of Bedford in the tussle to claim a semi-final place. In 2009/10 there was a successful run in the inaugural year of the B&I Cup in 2009/10, winning the pool before losing to eventual winners Cornish Pirates at the semi-final stage.
* The final games of 2005/06 saw club captain Rob Liley reach the 1000 point mark for the club in his four seasons at Castle Park, and the 2000 point mark in an illustrious career before retiring. Liley's older brother John, ex-Leicester, played alongside him during part of this period
* Winger Dougie Flockhart was the highest points-scorer in 2011/12 with 100 while fellow winger Michael Keating was top try-scorer with 10
* Although his memory of the occasion is somewhat sketchy, records show that Ben Harvey turned out for Richmond against Doncaster at the Madejski Stadium in January 1998, Richmond winning the Tetley's Bitter Cup match 58-8
* The De Mulder Lloyd Stand (pictured), which has a capcity of
1,600, is named after two leading backers of the club - Tony De
Mulder, currently President and Chairman, and former Chairman Steve
Lloyd, who now lives in Guernsey but is still a major supporter of
* Clive Griffiths was a contender for international honours in the days before tactical replacements, and before Wales demeaned the prestige by awarding caps for games against the Barbarians. Plenty of players who sat on the bench in the 1960s and 70s never made it onto the field, but Griffiths won a single cap, and in impressive circumstances too, as a half-time replacement for the injured (how many times did that happen?) JPR Williams in a 27-3 stuffing of England in Cardiff in March 1979. He will be one of two single-capped Welsh full-backs involved, along with Jersey's Barry Davies.
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Doncaster v Jersey through the following channels:
• Live commentary on BBC Jersey, available online and on your
transistor-wireless device, with the show starting at 7pm
• Live streaming on Channel Television, from 7.40pm. A new venture by the local ITV station in Jersey
• The JEP will look ahead to the game in both Thursday and Friday's editions, and there'll be full match coverage on Saturday (paper on sale from 7am)
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum.
The Championship this weekend
Friday: Bristol v London Scottish (7.45pm) and Newcastle v Plymouth Albion (8pm)
Saturday: Moseley v Rotherham (12.45pm)
Sunday: Leeds v Bedford and Cornish Pirates v Nottingham (both 2pm)
A pause for thought about how life can change in an instant - this week marked a year since talented Doncaster and former Bath scrum-half Lee Audis sustained horrific injuries in a car accident. He has been in hospital ever since, but has shown remarkable spirit and hopes to be home soon, and attending a match at Castle Park.
Audis may well get to watch James Tincknell, who spent three weeks in a coma after an accident in February 2011 but battled back to return to professional rugby with Doncaster this season after spending the second half of 2011/12 at Wharfedale. Tincknell won the Rugby Players Association's Blyth Spirit Award for his courage.
It would be remiss not to mention former Jersey prop James Ellershaw who had a terrible car accident of his own in October 2011 - his former colleagues hope the big man is doing well.
Switching to local action, there's just one game of note in
Jersey following the cancellation of the Wanderers v Beeches
friendly. LQ Lydian Lions take on Jersey United Banks in a
Hampshire Cup tie at LQ, kicking off at 12noon. This will enable
the players to see whether England and Wales can rescue their
abject Autumn campaigns with unlikely wins over New Zealand and
Australia respectively in the games at 2.30pm - the final action
before Monday's World Cup draw in which Wales will be among the
third seeds unless they can beat the Wallabies.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby