Preview to Jersey v Bedford

28/09/2012

I never felt more like singing the Blues
'Cos Paddy Power, says we can't lose
To Jer-sey
You've got me singing the Blues

Blues

A series of disappointing results has seen the all-conquering Jersey side of recent seasons unkindly labelled as "winless Jersey" in an official RFU communiqué this week. The tabloid wannabe - one cruel label deserves another - hired by 'HQ' twisted the knife further by describing Jersey as having "the worst defence" in the Championship, before uttering a Homer Simpson-style 'D'OH!' when they realised that a certain Richmond-based team had conceded more points, and more tries, than any other

The stats at this early stage aren't massively significant, but the tough first month at Championship level has shown the extent of the upward leap Jersey have made this season. But they are learning fast and refused to be bullied, away from home, by a formidable Rotherham side last Saturday. And if inaccurate information coming out of Twickenham serves to reinforce a siege mentality, and harden the team's resolve, then Jersey supporters will end up grateful for the assist.

Bedford will arrive in good heart, as one of only two unbeaten teams in the division, lying just two points behind Newcastle, and no doubt relishing the opportunity to have a crack at the leaders on their home patch at the start of November.

The Blues started the season by giving Moseley a 50-6 hiding at Goldington Road, and then looked set for another 'W' at Rotherham's Clifton Lane ground until they were pegged back to 38-38, a rare 3-3 draw in league points. Another half-century of points by the division's leading scorers - that stat has been audited - helped account for London Scottish, and last Saturday saw another home win, a skin-of-the-teeth affair against Nottingham sealed deep into added time.

So Mr P. Power, who has been bravely offering odds on Championship games this season, will no doubt have the visitors down as clear favourites for the day, especially in the light of what looks like a decent weather forecast. Jersey's bid to beat the bookie and confound the formbook starts at 3 o'clock sharp.

News from the Jersey camp
Ben Harvey has announced his Jersey squad: perhaps the biggest surprises see two lynchpins of last season's side, Donovan Sanders and Guy Thompson, relegated to the bench.

Sanders is replaced by Mike Le Bourgeois at centre, with Ross Broadfoot returning to the fly-half position. Ed Dawson starts on the wing in place of Glenn Bryce.

In the forwards, seven of the starting pack against Rotherham last weekend will appear again, with Thompson's number 7 shirt going to Kingsley Lang, an impactful substitute at Clifton Lane.

Paul

Jersey's bench includes two players back from injury: scrum-half Nicky Griffiths after a quicker-than-expected recovery from the blow he sustained against Moseley two weeks ago, and former captain Paul Rodgers - the Kiwi lock/ back row man (above) has been out for almost a year with a knee ligament injury.

Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and jersey.com
1 Richard Barrington
2 Steve Boden
3 Ben Evans
4 Nathan Hannay (capt)
5 Rob Anderson
6 Talite Vaoileti
7 Kingsley Lang
8 Fred Silcock
9 Dave McCormack
10 Ross Broadfoot
11 Ed Dawson
12 Dai Bishop
13 Mike Le Bourgeois
14 Ed Tellwright
15 Barry Davies

Replacements
James Gethings
Sean McCarthy
Paul Rodgers
Guy Thompson
Nicky Griffiths
Donovan Sanders
Ashley Maggs

Bedford in 2012/13
As the longest-standing club at Championship level, it's hardly surprising that Bedford have more continuity among their playing ranks than any other team. By my reckoning half of this weekend's starting XV have been with the club for at least five seasons including the current one.

Captain James Pritchard first joined the club in 2001 and has been there almost ever since, other than brief spells at Plymouth, Northampton and Perpignan. The 33-year-old may be the most prodigious National League points-scorer of all time, with something in excess of 2,500 points in the English club game, 90% of them achieved in Bedford colours. Born in Australia, Pritchard qualified for Canada through his grandfather from Saskatchewan and has gained 45 caps, including three World Cups, amassing 445 points.

Irish centre Brendan Burke is a former Leinster man who joined the Blues in 2007, and on the opposite wing to Pritchard will be promising youngster Josh Basset, 19, a graduate of the Blues Academy who signed a senior contract in summer 2011 and has also represented England at Under 20 level.

The half-backs are both new recruits: Mark Atkinson from Esher will play outside Luke Baldwin, who is on loan from Saracens. Sarries also provide two dual-registered players in full-back Ben Ransom and replacement hooker Scott Spurling.

Toops

In the Bedford pack Jersey will encounter flanker Sacha Harding, a veteran of nine years' service at Goldington Road, and a new recruit in the shape of lock Ben Gulliver, signed from Worcester. Number 8 Paul Tupai (above) is 38 years young, won five caps for Samoa in 2005 and is one of the few Championship players older than Jersey's Ben Evans (Moseley Forwards Coach Dave Hilton, 42, trumped them both last weekend with a cameo off the bench against Plymouth, but is not in regular active service).

From the bench for Blues, watch out for ex-Northampton man Alex Rae, a 'back-five' forward who captained the side this time last year when Pritchard was at the World Cup. Alongside him is the combative Darren Fox, who had something of a barney with Jersey's Nathan Hannay last November while playing for Cambridge, culminating in the Jersey player receiving a red card for an intended, tho' somewhat ineffectual head-butt.

Blues
Backs (15-9)
Ben Ransom
Josh Bassett
Brendan Burke
Henry Staff
James Pritchard (c)
Mark Atkinson
Luke Baldwin

Forwards (8-1)
Paul Tupai
Sacha Harding
Gregor Gillanders
Ben Gulliver
Mike Howard
Phil Boulton
Neil Cochrane
Ricky Reeves

Replacements (16-22)
Scott Spurling
Ben Cooper
Alex Rae
Darren Fox
Darryl Veenendaal
Ian Vass
Mark Kohler

History of Bedford RUFC
A few years after their separate foundations, Bedford Rovers and Bedford Swifts joined forces in 1886 to form Bedford RUFC. Close links between the club and two local schools - Bedford and Bedford Modern - led to the choice the dark and light blue strip, reflecting further links between the schools and the Oxbridge universities. This colour scheme exists to this day in both the home and away kits worn by the team, who are nicknamed the Blues, just to keep things tidy.

The club played at Goldington Road virtually from the outset, hosting some of the leading teams of the era. In 1893/94 they lost just one game out of 29 and in 1905 hosted the All Blacks - a 41-0 defeat was little disgrace given that the visitors lost just one match of a lengthy tour.

Fast-forwarding a few years, as one has to given limited space and time, and Bedford were a pre-eminent name in English rugby in the 1960s thanks to the likes of national captains Budge Rogers and David Perry. They won the Sunday Telegraph English-Welsh Rugby Table in 1969/70 and were led by Rogers to an 18-12 victory over Rosslyn Park in the 1975 John Player Cup Final at Twickenham.

When the league era began in 1987 Bedford were at level two, and the club has spent 21 of the ensuing 26 seasons at this level. The exceptions were a one-season foray into Courage Division One in 1989/90, two years below stairs at level three in the mid-90s, and then two years back at the top-flight, then named the Allied Dunbar Premiership, from 1998-2000. Readers of recent previews may recall two promotion play-offs with Rotherham during this time, the first won on try count-back after a 38-38 draw (again!) and the second lost 34-40 and resulting in relegation.

Like many clubs, Bedford have weathered the peaks and troughs of the professional era. In 1996/97 boxing promoter Frank Warren and the company Sports Network invested in the club and helped secure some major signings and promotion to the Premiership. However the club's sale in 1999 to Jefferson Lloyd International was financially catastrophic and at one stage looked likely to involve another sale and the club moving out of Bedford.

Following intervention by the RFU in October 1999 a consortium of Bedford businessmen headed by David Ledsom (SDC), Geoff Irvine (Irvine-Whitlock) and David Gunner with assistance from Bedford Borough Council and other professional people, the transfer of the club to Bedford Blues Ltd. was organised.

Several thousand supporters and businesses in the town bought shares and the club is now a thriving one that is a fine example for sustainability in the tough environment of Championship rugby.

Geoff Irvine remains a central figure as Chairman, and holds the same role in the umbrella organisation for Championship clubs in their dealings with the RFU win which, so he assures us, there's rarely a dull moment.

Director of Rugby Mike Rayer, 47, is in his eighth season in charge - on the playing side - at Goldington Road. He won 21 caps at full-back for Wales in the early 90s, scoring four tries including a brace as a replacement against Scotland in 1994, and played two seasons for Bedford between 1996 and 1998. A dubious source claims that his name is slang for an all-day drinking session, as in 'I'm going for a Mike Rayer' - JRFC lawyers asked me to stress that this is due to rhyming reasons rather than anything else.

Blues are now starting their 13th straight season at level two, making them the 'Fathers' of this league. Notable seasons since then:

* 2005/06: runners-up in the days before play-offs
* 2009/10: finished fourth, then second in relegation pool A, then beaten by Exeter in the one-leg semi-final at Sandy Park
* 2010/11: runners-up in the regular season, second in pool B, then lost 22-23 to Worcester courtesy of a late try by Kai Horstman, converted by Joe Carlisle
* 2011/12: second again after 'normal time', then the winners of pool B, and a two-legged semi (which sounds like something from the Karma Sutra) against London Welsh, lost by the agonising margin of 27-30.

The Blues, the Red Rose and other internationals
Many Bedford players have won international honours. Selected caps include:

* England: as well as the aforementioned skippers Rogers and Perry, and their 1960s contemporaries Geoff Frankcom and Danny Hearn, take your pick from Martin Bayfield, Andy Gomarsall, Jeff Probyn and Rory Underwood. Martin 'Chariots' Offiah never played union for England, but the GB league man did represent Bedford in 1997/98
* South Africa: Rudi Straeuli, World Cup winner in 1975
* Wales: Mike Rayer and Paul Turner (also known - in Jersey at least - as Tommy's Dad)
* Scotland: Scott Murray and Billy Steele
* Tonga: Soane Tonga'uiha
* Canada: Gareth Rees and James Pritchard
* Ben Alexander and Alistair Murdoch

Coming to St Peter
Tickets for the match are £15 for adults, £10 for Jersey members on production of a membership card, £3 for juniors (13 to 16 inclusive) and free to those aged 12 and under. These will be on sale at the club shop between 10am and 1pm on Friday. Later on Friday, the Barclays Pavilion will be open for an eve-of-match reception open to all supporters, with the chance to have a pint, enjoy some free nibbles and pick up your tickets. Tickets will then be on sale on the gate from 12noon on Saturday.

 DSC03816

Get down at once! And take that football shirt off!

If weather conditions permit we hope to be able to allow kids to come onto the pitch, at half-time only. Please listen for announcements. But woe betide anyone who climbs trees - that is strictly forbidden.

Supporters are reminded that no food or drink may be brought into the ground, and also that admittance to the clubhouse will be restricted immediately after the game to members and those sponsors and visiting supporters with the appropriate wristbands. This is a necessary measure to enable the club to keep within the capacity imposed by the Fire Service.

Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Bedford through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's 'Sportscene' from 6- 7pm on Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more rugby in Saturday's Inside Centre pull-out, including an interview with Bedford Chairman Geoff Irvine, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 soon after the final whistle on Saturday, plus updates during the match
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm


The Championship this 'weekend' - a.k.a. that Friday feeling
Friday - Bristol v Moseley; Doncaster v Pirates; Newcastle v Leeds; Nottingham v London Scottish; Plymouth v Rotherham
Saturday - Jersey v Bedford
Sunday - n/a

And Finally
It would be remiss not to mention the long-standing links between Victoria College in Jersey and Bedford School, which started on October 31st 1940, when 34 College boys took up places at the school after being evacuated from Nazi-occupied Jersey. In all, some 50 Victorians passed through the School. College boys took a full part in many school activities but retained their old school identity by wearing separate school caps, and having a separate Head Boy appointed for the Victorians. The last one was Michael Thorn. A collection was organised to pay for an oak panel suitably inscribed to be erected at the entrance of the Great Hall. The original was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1979, but a replica now hangs outside the Headmaster's study at Bedford.

A sports exchange has existed between the two schools since 1980. Each year, boys from Year 6 take part in an exchange with Victoria College visiting Bedford, normally in November and Bedford returning to St Helier in the Spring or Summer term.

And it would be equally remiss not to mention JRFC stalwart Keith Goddard, who died this month and was a committee member of Jersey Rugby Club's Limited Company, the parent/ guardian body who watch over the club. Keith worked tirelessly for many years and his efforts will be sadly missed. A minute's silence will take place in his honour before the game.

Lastly, it's a quiet weekend for local rugby in Jersey, but good luck to the Colts squad who start their Hampshire league campaign away to Portsmouth on Sunday. Selected players from the squad will be receiving their team shirts from new sponsor Ogier during half-time of the Jersey v Bedford game.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

 

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