Preview to Bristol (H) 28.09.13

26/09/2013

Making your mind up... on limited evidence

Jersey v Bristol, Saturday 28th September 2013, KO 3pm

Bristol _rugby _logo

Recent days have seen the start of at least two new seasons. Autumn started officially last Sunday and it also seems that the 'jumping to premature conclusions' season is also getting into gear.

So there's been some real wailing and gnashing of teeth from Bedford fans as their side lies at the bottom of the table, without any points and rubbing shoulders with new boys Ealing, just because they've lost two games out of 23 and haven't even set foot on their home ground for a competitive game.

Meanwhile London Welsh are being lauded as world-beaters as they have a 100% record i.e two wins, and Rotherham have made the early running. Plymouth are unbeaten, but will be cautious after last season when they won four out of five but ended up in the relegation battle until close to the end of the season.

Jersey have swung from miserable losers, thanks to a horror half-hour against Plymouth on opening weekend, to all-conquering heroes, having despatched last season's finalists last weekend.

Bristol are also played one, won one; losing the opening encounter with Pirates at Sandy Park, but really finding their feet last Sunday after trailing 7-10 to London Scottish at half-time, going on to win 31-18.

There are some high expectations among the Bristolian faithful after some significant investment in squad-building that began shortly after the arrival of the club's Director of Rugby, a former England and Scotland Coach, and ex-flanker for bitter West Country rivals B**h. Andy Robinson took office on March 1, and within a fortnight had taken sole charge after the departure of Coach Liam Middleton.

Aside from the great expectations, Robinson's main concern is an extensive injury list, particularly among his backs. Four of them are certain to be out of the trip to Jersey: full-backs Jack Tovey and Jack Wallace, utility back Errie Claassens and finally centre Luke Eves, whose run of 34 Championship matches without missing a minute came to an end with a hand injury last Sunday that required surgery ruling him out for six to eight weeks.

Five other backs have also suffered knocks or are returning from injury and were listed as doubtful: fly-half Nicky Robinson, wingers George Watkins and Charlie Amesbury, and centres Fautua Otto and Bryan Rennie. Robinson will hope to have at least some of them available, or his squad may be stretched to its limits.

Jersey hope the win against Bedford will inspire a surge in crowd numbers from last Saturday's none-too-shoddy 2,265, and that the Island side can once again prove they can mix it with the leading sides. Bristol, who were cheered on by an impressive 5,320 last Sunday and should have decent away support, will want to keep their upward momentum going by emulating their win on Jersey soil six months ago. Whatever happens, expect a fresh wave of premature conclusions to be jumped to by the time the dust settles.


News from the Jersey camp

Jersey have fewer worries about absentees, although back row is a concern after Fred Silcock, a try-scorer against Bedford, copped a two-week ban for swinging arm offences in both opening Championship games, while Latu Makaafi nurses a broken jaw. Joe Buckle (below) is the last remaining out-and-out number 7 available - don't tell the visitors which club he used to play for.

Buckle

Jersey's back-line may show little change from the VII who started against Blues, although Drew Locke's possible return from injury could bring about a change. This is all speculation until the team is announced on Friday morning when it will be posted on this site.

Bris brace themselves for 13/14 campaign

After the 21-23 defeat at the hands of Cornish Pirates on the opening day of the season, Bris hit back last weekend to secure a bonus point against London Scottish at the Memorial Stadium.

Marco Mama and James Merriman crossed either side of half time, before Bristol were awarded a penalty try after a strong surge at the scrum. With time on the clock running out, Glen Townson rumbled over from close range to seal maximum points against the Exiles.

Former Bath Rugby back-rower Ben Skirving was one of a number of new faces, 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 D'Arcy (Ulster), Nick Koster (Bath) and Rupert Freestone (unattached) were also added.

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.


12/13 Head-to-Head

At the Memorial Stadium on Remembrance Day, three tries in a 20-minute spell midway through the first half helped Bristol to a 17-6 interval lead over Jersey. Mariano Sambucetti added his second try 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.

 Ng2

Jersey lead 16-9 at the break, Nicky Griffiths (celebrating above) 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.


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 (pictured below), who scored 384 tries for Bristol in 519 appearances between 1968 and 1986.

Morley

When the league era began, Bristol competed at the top level for 15 of the first 16 seasons. Jersey Director of Rugby Ben Harvey began his pro career there in the mid-1990s, and is even rumoured to have played against Andy Robinson in one of the hotly-contested local derbies between Bris and B**h.

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.


Parish Notices

Information for supporters is available HERE. The club will be open on Friday from 5.30- 7.30pm, and on Saturday the gates open at 12noon ahead of KO at 3pm.

There are new arrangements for those travelling by car to St Peter this season. Please see this notice for details and allow extra time for your journey.


Following the Game

There's no substitute for being here, but 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 Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device). BBC Bristol will also be providing commentary
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more rugby 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 at 5.10pm
• 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 Greene King IPA Championship this weekend

A true collectors' item this weekend, with all 12 clubs playing in the traditional Saturday afternoon slot. This is the only time this will happen in 2013/14, other than the final Saturday of the season in late April when all games must kick-off simultaneously. 3pm starts except where stated.

London Welsh v Plymouth (2.30)
Bedford v Leeds
Ealing v Pirates
Scots v Notts
Moseley v Rotherham

And Finally

In this weekend's other games involving Jersey sides, the newly-formed Jersey Athletic side travel for their first away match in The Shield, taking on Blackheath on Saturday. On the same day a JRA representative side made up of players from the Island's junior clubs will travel to Guernsey for an inter-insular clash with the old enemy.

Bristol's revival last Sunday came too late for one disgusted punter, who had already let rip on the Bristol forum after defeat to the Pirates at Sandy Park.

"That truly was appalling. No pace, no cutting edge, ball retention non-existent, " he wrote. "What are we doing with that Barfer in charge? He's finally finishing us off. My 8-year-old said we'll be playing the Dings soon!! Total and utter crap!!"

I quote this not because I think this person is representative of Bristol's support - clearly he is as mad as a box of frogs - but as an excuse to publish the put-down that he received from another poster soon afterwards.

"You have an eight-year-old child? I'm amazed you've reached puberty," came the response. "Suspect your sister's been playing away, my friend."

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

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