Jersey head west for Bristol challenge31/01/2014
Going west with the Jersey Flyer and the man from Buenos Aires
Jersey's young men will go west this weekend for another stern Championship challenge.
To describe Bristol as ambitious would be like saying Brian Moore is opinionated, that Eddie Butler fancies himself as the ace pronouncer of French surnames, or that Jonathan 'Jiffy' Davies is prone to shouting 'NUMBERS!' in a high-pitched voice during moments of excitement. It was Sybil Fawlty's special subject - the bleedin' obvious.
Jersey's West Country opponents have been 'below stairs' at Championship level since relegation from the Premiership in 2009. And after a few near misses they're now ready to head back up. It is 11 months since Andy Robinson joined as Director of Rugby and the squad has been strengthened with some high-calibre additions.
The process has continued recently with such signings as Ross Rennie and Stuart McInally from Edinburgh on loan - one capped 20 times by his country, the other on the cusp of national selection. This pair arrived immediately, but there are also some landmark additions for 2014/15, such as Welsh scrum-half Dwayne Peel and Samoan prop Anthony Perenise, and rumours of more to come, with former Wales captain Ryan Jones the highest profile name to have been mentioned thus far.
Bristol's Premiership ambitions have some strong foundations - a proud history, a large and passionate support base - the average home crowd (5,300) dwarfs those of Championship rivals - and some serious investment from majority shareholder Steve Lansdown.
This will be Jersey's second and final visit to the Memorial Stadium - part of Lansdown's project will see Bristol leave their home this summer and move in with Bristol City, the football club also owned by Lansdown and whose entire debt of £35million he recently wiped out.
Bristol actually slipped out of the play-off places last weekend, thanks to the postponement of the home game against Plymouth, but they remain very much in touch and will expect to be several places higher when the regular season concludes in April.
Did someone say 'postponement'? Well yes, last Sunday's game was lost to the elements, and it has been very wet in the west of England, but the hosts have said they are confident that this Sunday's game (k-o 3pm) will proceed as scheduled.
News from the Jersey Camp
It's another tricky test for Jersey's new Head Coach Harvey Biljon in his second Greene King IPA Championship fixture since arriving on the Island.
Biljon makes four changes to his starting XV from the line-up who faced Rotherham at St Peter last weekend.
In the pack, skipper Alex Rae switches from second to back row following last week's injury to Fred Silcock, with Nick Campbell coming in to the engine room alongside Dave Markham. Joe Buckle (pictured above by Sue Trower winning lineout ball last weekend) starts ahead of Latu Makaafi, who is one of five replacement forwards named by the Islanders.
Scrum-half Nicky Griffiths and centre Mark McCrea return in place of Jimmy Williams and David Bishop, who will both be on the bench, alongside new signing Sam Lockwood (pictured below), the loose-head prop who joined Jersey this week on a three-month loan deal from Leeds Carnegie.
Alex Rae (capt)
Man in the Middle
The referee for this weekend is Argentine official Francisco Pastrana (pictured below), who also has a 6 Nations appointment this weekend and last year was the first official from outside SA/NZ/Oz to take charge of a Super Rugby fixture. You can read more about him HERE
At the Memorial Stadium on Remembrance Day 2012, three tries in a 20-minute spell midway through the first half helped Bristol to a 17-6 interval lead. Mariano Sambucetti added his second of the game in the second period, and Rhys Lawrence crossed twice, to complete a six-try, 39-16 win.
Jersey's points came from two penalties by Mike Le Bourgeois, a last minute try by Richard Barrington, and a conversion by Donovan Sanders. But the Islanders also suffered two yellow cards, plus a red for Ashley Maggs' tip-tackle against his former club. The full report can be accessed HERE
In March Bristol travelled St Peter and completed the double over the Islanders, who were left fuming after being denied a winning score in the final move of the game.
With time up and the scoreboard reading 23-29, Jersey were hammering at the visitors' line and replacement prop James Gethings forced his way over. The Irishman's team-mates were convinced the ball had been grounded, but referee Ross Campbell, after consulting his Assistant, ruled 'held up' and blew for full time, to the frustration of the majority in a season-high crowd of 3,074 at St Peter.
Jersey lead 16-9 at the break, Nicky Griffiths having scored the only try thus far, and the Islanders were 23-15 up on the hour after Guy Thompson crossed, only for the visitors to pull ahead through tries by Fautua Otto and Lee Jarvis, the latter completing a 24-point haul. See the full report HERE.
In September 2013, the teams met again at St Peter, and Bristol
started with a bang. Tristan Roberts scored two tries and Ruki
Tipuna another before some members of the Old Farts' table in the
JRFC clubhouse had finished their last pre-match glass of Fleurie.
Home supporters feared the worst, but Jersey steadied the
After leading 3-19 at the break, Bristol claimed a BP try just two minutes after the restart when Ryan Edwards scored, but that was the last time the visitors troubled the scoreboard: Ed Dawson and Nick Selway claimed second half tries for Jersey, and some respectability was restored. See HERE for full report.
Bristol's 2013/14 campaign
Former Bath Rugby back-rower Ben Skirving was one of a number of new faces to join in summer 2013, while Mark Sorenson (Northampton Saints), Charlie Amesbury (Sale Sharks), James Hall (Newcastle Falcons), Nicky Robinson (Wasps), Ben Mosses (Bath), Andy Short (Worcester), Ollie Hayes (Worcester), Jack Wallace (Wasps), Errie Claassens (Worcester), Adam DÕArcy (Ulster), Nick Koster (Bath) and Rupert Freestone (unattached) were also added.
DoR Robinson has also welcomed Sean Holley to his coaching staff, with the former Ospreys Head Coach taking on the role of First Team Coach. Matt Ferguson (Forwards Coach) remains in position for his second full season with the Club, while Matthew Sherratt continues to oversee the attack.
After the 21-23 defeat at the hands of Cornish Pirates on the opening day of the season, Bris hit back the following weekend to secure a bonus point win against London Scottish at the Memorial Stadium.
After winning In Jersey Bristol swept aside Bedford and Nottingham, but then had to work hard before overcoming Plymouth at Brickfields 31-38. This was followed by a loss against league leaders London Welsh (22-7 at the Kassam) and a 36-26 home win over Rotherham.
Then the Cornish Bogey struck again, with the Pirates winning at
the Mennaye by 21-15, and then bitter rivals (well certainly on the
message-boards) Leeds edged a close one at the Mem 22-28.
The festive fixtures saw Bristol win at Ealing and then take care of Moseley three days after Christmas in a game watched by around 7,000 spectators. They were due to return to league action last weekend but this was the Plymouth postponement.
The B&I Cup isn't Bristol's priority this year, but they cantered through the easiest of this season's pools along with Leeds. Each beat the other once and their second-string sides were not tested against Gala or Aberavon, except briefly when a crater appeared in the Welsh team's pitch and forced a postponement. Bristol are home to Rotherham in the quarter-finals.
History of Bristol RFC
The club was formed in 1888, through the merger of two local sides Redland Park and Westbury Park, and within 12 years had their first England cap, J.W. Jarman. A contemporary of Jarman's was James Peters, who played for Bristol (and Plymouth) prior to becoming the first black man to play for England in 1906.
Bristol played the touring New Zealanders in 1905, and in 1921 the Memorial Ground was opened.
Two of Bristol's finest years came in 1965/66, when the 1st XV won 39 games, and in 1971/72 when the club were unofficial champions of England and also the Anglo-Welsh league. The former England skipper John Pullin was a lynchpin of the Bristol side during this period.
In 1983 Bris won the John Player Cup, beating Leicester 28-22 under the captaincy of England flanker Mike Rafter. The team included Alan Morley, who scored 384 tries for Bristol in 519 appearances between 1968 and 1986.
When the league era began, Bristol competed at the top level for 15 of the first 16 seasons.
The 2002/03 season ended up as a bitter memory, when owner Malcolm Pearce pulled out and the club ended up relegated. It took two seasons to get back up but in 2006/07, under the guidance of former England scrum-half Richard Hill, the club achieved their highest-ever league ranking, third in the Premiership, followed by a play-off loss to Leicester Tigers.
Once again there was a swing in fortunes before too long and in 2009 Bristol were relegated, with former England full-back Paul Hull replacing Hill. There were hopes of getting straight back up, but these were dashed at the final hurdle with play-off defeat by Exeter. 2010/11 was a disappointment, with the club only just escaping the ignominy of the relegation play-offs, but again there was the opportunity to strengthen and rebuild, resulting in a far stronger showing in 2011/12 until another play-off defeat, this team by the Pirates.
Bristol are in their fifth season in the Championship since relegation in 2009. Multi-millionaire Stephen Lansdown became the majority shareholder in early 2012, although his investment in the club goes back to 2008/09. Lansdown also owns Bristol City FC, in which he is quoted as saying he has invested an "embarrassing" amount he estimated at north of £50million. The two clubs are set to co-habit at City's Ashton Gate ground from next season, which will mean leaving the Memorial Ground seven years before its centenary. Current owners Bristol Rovers FC are expected to carry on at the Mem in the short-term, but the ground is eventually set to be redeveloped into a supermarket.
In 2012/13 Bristol were 'there or thereabouts' for most of the season but dropped off the pace in the closing stages. They rallied with a notable triumph 14-19 in the last game at Kingston Park, the only time Champions Newcastle were downed, but ended up being pipped to the final play-off spot by two points by Leeds, who held off Nottingham 30-26 on the same day.
Following the Game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Bristol through the following channels:
- Preview on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday from 5.30pm, and live commentary on Sunday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device)
- Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on Monday
- Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
- Report on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm
The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend
The fixture list throws up six pairings of a top six side with opponents from the bottom half. Success for bottom six sides over the top six have been rare this season, with just four such wins in 40 games so far.
The four top six teams who are at home will be favourites to
take a win this weekend, but Nottingham may fancy their chances at
home to London Scottish and Plymouth will be desperate to get their
first home Championship win of the season against London
Friday January 31
Nottingham Rugby v London Scottish, 20:00
Saturday February 1
Rotherham Titans v Moseley, 14:00
Plymouth Albion v London Welsh, 15:00
Sunday February 2
Cornish Pirates v Ealing Trailfinders, 14:00
Leeds Carnegie v Bedford Blues, 15:00
The weather has caused the cancellation of some local games in Jersey, but with two visiting sides flying in, the show should be going on in two instances: Jersey Athletic host Old Albanians in the Zoo Sports Shield at 12noon on Saturday at St Peter pitch 4, after which there'll be lunch and 6 Nations action in the clubhouse. The following day the same pitch is scheduled to host Jersey United Banks Ladies for their league match against Teddington.
By the time Sunday's game kicks off, Jersey fly-half Niall O'Connor may no longer be the most famous person in his family. The Ulsterman's 16-year-old sister Rachael (pictured above) is scheduled to be on The Voice on BBC 1 on Saturday evening and, judging by the preview clips, her voice is every bit as good, if not quite as deep, as judge Sir Tom Jones.
In other news, a triumph for Jerseyman Matt Banahan last weekend in an ale-brewing contest against Bath team-mate Duncan Bell. 'Banners' brewed up a batch of 'Jersey Flyer' (as illustrated above) in conjunction with west country brewer Wadworth, and his ale outsold the rival brew 'Belly Buster' (see what they did there?) when the beers went on sale at the Rec for Bath's home game last weekend.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!