Preview to Rotherham (A)

20/09/2012

Tongans, Titans and Bums Off Seats

For the second successive away match, Jersey head to Yorkshire: the county that finished 12th in the medals table at London 2012, the home of good honest broadband, good honest brass bands and a quarter of the teams in this year's RFU Championship.

The scene for Jersey's second away trip of 2012/13 is just a few junctions down the M1, crossing the border from West to South Yorkshire in the process, but it promises to be quite a different affair. After the Friday night floodlights and the 22,000 capacity stadium of Headingley, it's time for Saturday afternoon in the somewhat earthier surroundings of Clifton Lane.

Rotherham Titans share their ground with the local cricket club, meaning the rugby pitch is a narrow one hemmed in by the cricket square on one side and the main stand on the other. Rotherham were mid-table in the league last year in terms of the crowds attracted, an average of 1,443. That's a little closer to capacity than was the case at Headingley.

The alleged narrowness of the pitch and the size of the Rotherham pack has created a perception that Titans are an entirely forward-based team whose aim is to squeeze the life out of visiting packs. Like most preconceptions, this probably paints a simplistic picture - the visiting party will soon be able to judge for themselves.

Bester

Rotherham Coach Andre Bester (above), now in his second spell at the club, has the reputation as a tough and straight-talking leader. Certainly he didn't hedge his bets at the start of the season, saying categorically that his team would finish in the top four. With certainty like that, home advantage and Jersey's tricky start to life in the Championship, it all points to an easy home win. On paper. Jersey supporters will be hoping that the reality ends up being a rather closer contest.

News from the Jersey camp
New signing and former Wales/ Ospreys full-back Barry Davies is in line to make his Jersey debut, joining fellow new signing Ed Tellwright, who made his bow in the home game v Moseley last weekend. This will lead to some changes in the backs, with Director of Rugby Ben Harvey hoping that centre Dai Bishop may be back in contention after injury in the opening league game against Cornish Pirates.

Scrum-half Nicky Griffiths will definitely miss out although the news on his heavy knock against Moseley is encouraging and he should feature again in October. Dave McCormack stands by to return to the squad following his summer sabbatical.

Vee X -sml

Among the forwards, Talite 'Vee' Vaoileti looks set to return to the club where he played last season, his appearances restricted to just nine games following a broken leg sustained exactly a year ago in a British & Irish Cup games against Leeds. Expect tight calls at loose-head between Richard Barrington and Sean McCarthy and at lock between Rob Anderson and Dave Markham. And of the long-term injured brigade, Paul Rodgers is very close to a comeback but won't feature this weekend.

Jersey will feature a new half-back pairing in the game at Rotherham.

Mikey Le Bourgeois makes his first start of the season at fly-half in place of Ross Broadfoot, and will play outside the experienced Dave McCormack, who replaces Nicky Griffiths.

New signings Barry Davies and Ed Tellwright will also be on show. Former Wales and Ospreys full-back Davies makes his debut, while ex-Rotherham flyer Tellwright, unveiled in last Saturday's home fixture, will join Glenn Bryce in the wing berths. Dai Bishop returns from injury at centre.

The Jersey pack features another former Titan, the Tongan international Talite Vaoileti, who spent an injury-plagued 2011/12 season at Clifton Lane. 'Vee' is joined by Fred Silcock in the back row as the ex-Loughborough Student earns his first start ahead of Nick Trower. Richard Barrington and Rob Anderson return to the starting XV in place of Sean McCarthy and Dave Markham.

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 Guy Thompson
8 Fred Silcock
9 Dave McCormack
10 Mike Le Bourgeois
11 Glenn Bryce
12 Donovan Sanders
13 Dai Bishop
14 Ed Tellwright
15 Barry Davies
Replacements
16 Dave Felton
17 Sean McCarthy
18 Dave Markham
19 Kingsley Lang
20 Nick Trower
21 Brendan O'Brien
22 Ashley Maggs

Titans in 2012/13
Like so many clubs in the Championship, there were considerable changes of personnel at Clifton Lane over the summer.

The range of backs available in the squad includes two returning players, full-back Mike Whitehead and centre Lee Blackett (both played for Roth in their most recent Premiership campaign), a pair of signings from Ireland in the shape of Eamonn Sheridan (Leinster, wing) and James McKinney (Ulster, fly-half), the prodigious goal-kicking of Garry Law (250 points last season) and powerhouse Kiwi centre Pale Nonu. Other summer signings were the Mulchrone brothers, Charlie and Fergus, from Macclesfield.

In the forwards, watch out for flanker Alex Rieder and prop Gareth Denman, new signings from Leeds, and another prop, ex-Moseley man Marshall Gadd, who was one of the players rumoured to be talking to Jersey over the summer.

Prosignings 4_lead _203x 152

Tongan flanker Latu Makaafi will be in the starting line-up to face his former club. Latu was one of the first two professional players in Jersey, signing in August 2006 alongside Kern Yates (above, with DoR Dai Burton) and playing for the Islanders for two years, including the promotion winning campaign of 2007/08. Since leaving Jersey he has played for Hull, Wharfedale and Doncaster before coming to Clifton Lane this summer.

The competitive part of the season with an opening day defeat at London Scottish, followed by an extraordinary home opener at Clifton Lane. Titans led 18-13 at the break but a third-quarter burst from Blues saw them take a seemingly unassailable 35-24 lead. Blackett narrowed the deficit with a try, Blues added a penalty but then the home side scored a last-gasp penalty try to share a 'bonus point draw' at 38 points apiece.

Last weekend the Titans were locked in a close tussle at Meadow Lane against Notts County, with the scores 9-9 on the hour. However a penalty try on 63 minutes helped the visitors break the deadlock and with eight points from McKinney's boot and a late try by Sheridan Roth were away and clear at 27-9 before the hosts claimed a last minute consolation to narrow the gap to 27-16.

See below for the confirmed squad. Lee Blackett misses out with a leg injury, and the captaincy passing to Garry Law.

At scrum half Jimmy Williams returns allowing Joel Gill some "rest" time. Dan Baines comes back into the fold at hooker for Ted Stagg, whilst Latu Makaafi also makes his first start for the club, coming in at open side flanker for Carl Kirwan.

Titans: 15 Mike Whitehead, 14 Eamonn Sheridan, 13 Garry Law (Capt.), 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Peter Homan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Neale Patrick, 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Latu Makaafi, 8 Rory Pitman.

Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Simon Gardiner, 18 Marshall Gadd,19 Dan Sanderson, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Mike Doneghan, 22 Joel Gill.

History of Rotherham
Rotherham and local rivals Doncaster are the two clubs in the Championship who actually had a lower ranking than Jersey when the RFU leagues came in 25 years ago. Jersey began the new era in London Three South-West, level seven, while Rotherham were in North East Division One, one rung down the ladder.

The Yorkshiremen's rise was earlier and even steeper than Jersey's recent ascent - no fewer than seven promotions in 13 seasons saw Rotherham reach the Premiership in 2000. This included three successive promotions to go from level five to level two (the same jump Jersey have just made) between 1993 and 1996.

It's a tough call whether it was harder for Rotherham to reach the Premiership or to stay there. First of all the club missed automatic promotion in 1998/99 by a slither of points difference to Bristol, and then lost a two-legged play-off with Bedford on try count-back after a 38-38 aggregate scoreline (not the last time the teams took part in a 76-point thriller). 12 months later, it was another play-off, again versus Bedford, with Roth triumphant 40-34 over the two games.

Sadly it was straight back down from the Prem after just two wins, and then a denial of promotion the following season in the first example of ring-fencing at the top level. Roth overcame this hurdle with promotion in 2002/03 and some robust legal challenging, and played their most recent Premiership rugby at Millmoor, then home of Rotherham United, in 2003/04.

Once again it proved a task too far to stay at the top level and Roth have since been more settled at level two, a.k.a. The Championship, in recent years. Their best finish was second spot in 2006/07 while in 2009/10 it was necessary to contest the relegation play-offs. Last season the club finished seventh in the league but were then last of the four clubs in Pool B of the play-offs.

Rotherham's original history dates back to the club's formation in 1923 by a number of locals who had been introduced to the game at grammar or private schools. The early years were nomadic, until Clifton Lane was secured in the late 1930s.

After reformation in 1946, the club struggled both on and off the field until the 1960s when a greater flow of players from local schools began.

Well-known players with Rotherham connections include Moseley Head Coach and 70-times Ireland cap Kevin Maggs, Spanish wing Oriol Ripol, Irish scrum-half Guy Easterby, Henry Paul, John Bentley and Dave Scully. 14-times-capped Samoan Mike Umaga played 123 times for Roth, later becoming Player-Coach. Lock John Dudley played throughout the rise to the Premiership, his final appearance coming in September 2000 against a Newcastle squad containing the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Gary Armstrong, George Graham, Liam Botham, Inga Tuigamala and Ross Beattie.

Andre Bester first became Head Coach and Chief Executive in 2005/06. He left in 2007 and took over coaching duties at Birmingham & Solihull in 2007/08, shortly after the departure of Ben Harvey from his final position before moving to Jersey. Bester was back at the (coaching) helm at Clifton Lane in 2010.

Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Rotherham v Jersey through the following channels:

* Live commentary on BBC Jersey, available online and on your transistor-wireless device, with the show starting at 2pm
* Match report on Channel 103 soon after the final whistle i.e. just before or just after 5pm
* Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on Monday
* Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum


The Championship this weekend
Friday - no games
Saturday - London Scottish v Doncaster; Moseley v Plymouth; Bedford v Nottingham
Sunday - Cornish Pirates v Newcastle; Leeds v Bristol

And Finally
One of the more unusual promotional tie-ins is that between Rotherham and a campaign by the local NHS Trust to inspire locals to take more exercise. The 'Bums Off Seats' campaign is endorsed by the club and the players have Bums Off Seats logos sited on an appropriate area of their playing kit.

Bums

Local rugby action back on the Islands sees Jersey Athletic travel to St Jacques in Guernsey on Saturday while Jersey Wanderers at St Peter at 3pm the same day. 24 hours later HMP La Moye and Beeches will meet, also at St Peter.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

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