Preview to Nottingham (H) 08.02.14

07/02/2014

Any more of this, and Jersey v Nottingham will become known as the Meteorological Derby, with the two sides led out onto the pitch by celebrity weather presenters Siân Lloyd and Michael Fish.

Fish

The Green & Whites came to Jersey twice last season, with torrential rain dominating the first visit, and deep snow threatening the second, and now another wet build-up left the hosts obliged to arrange a pitch inspection, in spite of extensive work to improve the condition of the main pitch at St Peter. Stop press - inspection passed, see HERE

Nottingham must wonder what they've done to upset the fixture computer after landing a February slot to visit the Channel Island for two seasons running.

Jersey, 11th in the Championship table, go into the match 10 points behind 10th-placed Nottingham, and seeking to complete the double over the Midlands side after a nail-biting 19-22 win at Meadow Lane in October. A Jersey win would bring Nottingham closer to the battle to avoid relegation, whereas Martin Haag's men could put significant daylight between themselves and the chasing pack with a victory of their own.

The home side will be desperate to get the game on, keen to get a first league victory for new Head Coach Harvey Biljon, and to right the ship after a 54-14 thumping last weekend' albeit against a Bristol team who produced one of their best displays of the season. As Rotherham had done the week before at St Peter - annoying when you keep bringing out the best in your opponents.

Sunday's defeat was Jersey's worst for 13 years, dating back to February 7th 2001 when Gosport & Fareham executed an 83-13 massacre over the Islanders in London Three South-West.


News from the Jersey camp

Jersey supporters will be pleased to see a largely settled side take the field, although this doesn't mean the Islanders are free of injury troubles. All but one of the 22 players who did battle with Bristol last weekend will be on duty, with three players promoted from the bench to the starting line-up.

A single change in the backs from Sunday's defeat at the Memorial Stadium sees Jimmy Williams return in place of Nicky Griffiths, while their are three alterations to the starting pack. James Voss gets an opportunity in place of Dave Markham in the second row, and Latu Makaafi returns to the back row alongside skipper Alex Rae and Joe Buckle after Tom Brown failed a fitness test.

The new addition to the squad is Joel Dudley, who will be along the bench alongside Griffiths, Markham, David Bishop, David Felton and Nick Selway. The final replacement is Sam Lockwood, who is set to make his home debut after signing on loan from Leeds last week.


Jersey squad v Nottingham (H) Saturday February 8th 2014, k-o 3pm

Backs (15-9)
Jack Burroughs
Grant Pointer
Drew Locke
Mark McCrea
Mark Foster
Niall O'Connor
Jimmy Williams

Forwards (1-8)
Sean McCarthy
Elvis Taione
Dave Young
Nick Campbell
James Voss
Alex Rae (capt)
Joe Buckle
Latu Makaafi

Replacements
David Felton
Nick Selway
Sam Lockwood
Dave Markham
Nicky Griffiths
Joel Dudley
David Bishop


Nottingham in 2013/14

It was a tricky summer at Meadow Lane. It was announced towards the end of last season that Nottingham were seeking new financial backing, and although the club finished the season by claiming a play-off spot, subsequently losing to Bedford at the semi-final stage, change was just around the corner.

Nottingham -Rugby -Logo

A number of high profile players left, including James Arlidge, Matt Parr, Nic Rouse, Alex Lewington, Joe Duffy and Championship Player of the Year Tim Streather.

There were recruits as well, although the squad was reduced to an official size, according to the Green-and-Whites' website, of just two dozen (it has since increased to approximately 28). One player no longer involved is the stalwart David Jackson, who first wore a Nottingham shirt aged six but was recently forced to retire on medical grounds at the age of 31 after 316 appearances and 926 points.

The new faces were the aforementioned George David Campese Ma'afu (yes, really!), hooker Jon Vickers from Plymouth, Irish lock Neilus Keogh (he was signed from Lazio in Italy, where he played alongside Jersey's David Young) and 6ft 4in Welsh fly-half Matt Jarvis (he came from Connacht in Ireland, where he played alongside Jersey's Mark McCrea).

The season started with an excellent 24-16 win over Leeds in the double-header at Doncaster, with tries from Montagu and Hough, followed by disappointment at Meadow Lane. Not only did the home team slip out of contention against London Welsh, losing 19-46, but only 1,164 supporters turned up. Styles and Lee-Everton were the Green-and-White try-scorers.

At the end of September Notts were level with London Scottish at half-time at the RAG, and edged ahead early in the second period, but then faded once again to finish 27-6 adrift.

After Jersey's visit, Notts went three games unbeaten at home, beating Bedford and Plymouth narrowly and drawing with the Pirates, but succumbed to defeats on the road at Bristol, Moseley and Rotherham.

The festive fixture on the last Saturday of December saw revenge for Leeds, 30-19 winners at Headingley, but 2014 started badly with a 27-28 home defeat by Ealing. The past fornight has seen two tense battles played in poor weather - a 14-9 defeat at Goldington Road against Bedford and then a gritty 15-3 home win over London Scottish last Friday, with five penalties from Matt Jarvis and an excellent defensive effort by tout-le-monde.

There wasn't much to write home about in this season's B&I Cup, which included home-and-away defeats by both Plymouth and Munster 'A', both of whom made the quarter-finals. But the Green & Whites did do the double over Stirling County, and England star Mathew Tait turned out on loan from Leicester in one of the games as part of his comeback from injury.


Head-to-head

In the fourth round of this season's Championship, Jersey travelled to Meadow Lane in early October 2013. The first half was tight, Tom Chapman scoring the only try for the hosts and helping his side to a 13-9 lead at the break.

Jersey survived a yellow card for Joe Buckle early in the second half, keeping the margin at four points (16-12) until Mark McCrea burst through for a try near the posts. This converted try was enough to secure the win, with each side scoring one further penalty, and the Green & Whites turning down two kickable penalties to force a draw and going boldly but unsuccessfully for a winning try. See HERE for the full report

Nottingham's first visit to Jersey in February 2013 did not feature any rugby: after weeks of torrential rain, the match was called off at short notice due to a pitch ruled unfit by the referee. Enough was said and written about these events at the time.

Four weeks later (March 2013), snow was the challenge, and the picture at the start of the week wasn't promising (see below).

Snow Pitch

But the pitch was cleared, the show did go on, and Jersey could well have won it had they cashed in during a dominant first half to the tune of more than seven points. After one penalty try was registered, the home team decided against pressing for another even with two Notts' players in the bin.

The visitors rallied in the second half and two Brent Wilson tries helped then achieve a 13-20 win and restrict Jersey to a bonus point. The report's HERE

In the October 2012 clash at Meadow Lane, Jersey were hit hard with 17 points conceded in the first five minutes. Savage and Shaw claimed tries and James Arlidge added a penalty and both conversions.

The visitors recovered slightly to the extent that they were just 23-13 down at the break, Michael Le Bourgeois claiming all his side's points with a try, conversion and two penalties.

Jersey needed to score first after the break but instead it was a Green-and-White procession, with a Duffey try and two more Arlidge penalties. Ben Evans, in what was to be his last appearance as a Jersey player, was yellow-carded for repeated infringement and when replacement James Gethings had no better fortunes, a penalty try was given, before Rhys Crane rounded off the afternoon with his side's fifth try. The report is HERE


History of Nottingham RFC

The club was formed in 1877 by former Rugby School pupil Alick Birkin, who returned to his home city and recruited some friends to play the game he'd enjoyed at the school where William Webb Ellis invented it some 50 years previously.

The Birkin family were involved in Nottingham rugby until the mid 1950s, including the donation of land at Ireland Avenue, Beeston, in 1904 by Alick's brother Leslie - this was the club's home for more than a century until it was sold in 2006.

Nottingham have spent most of the 26 (and a half) seasons of the league era at level two, now the RFU Championship - the club first entered this league in the early 90s, and though relegated in 1996/97 they were back after being runners-up at level three in 2003/04.

Since their return, the club finished third in 2007/08, but they failed to make an impact in the promotion play-offs in the next three seasons, with a trio of identical finishes - fifth in the regular season, third in their promotion pool. Last season, with the play-off stakes halved to a field of four, Notts pipped Bedford to second place but were then defeated over two legs by the Blues in the play-offs. Bedford won the first leg 26-17 at home and a dominant first half in the return at Meadow Lane ended the contest, albeit that Notts fought back to 21-23 on the night and an 11-point aggregate margin.

The club is owned by Meadow Lane plc, which also owns Notts County FC, and have played at Meadow Lane since 2006.

VH Cartwright was Nottingham's first England player, winning 14 caps in the early 1900s and subsequently becoming President of the RFU.

The 1980s was a golden era, with Nottingham runners-up in the National Merit Table in 1985/86 and having no less than five England caps during the decade: Gareth Rees, Rob Andrew, Brian Moore, Chris 'Swing Low' Oti and Simon Hodgkinson, as well as the Scotland lock Chris Gray (Moore and Oti are pictured below with team-mates Will Carling and Simon Halliday).

Oti And Moore

Recent internationals include James Arlidge, the New Zealand fly-half who represented Japan 32 times, the US full-back Chris Wyles and the New Zealand lock Ali Williams, who played a month of rugby with the Green-and-Whites as part of a successful return from injury in early 2011. That's successful as in he won the World Cup 10 months later...

Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Notts 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 in Saturday's Inside Centre spread and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match preview on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; Channel also have Harvey Biljon in the studio on Friday at around 6.10pm; result and possible report on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm


The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend

I love a good stat, me, and this is certainly striking: the last three encounters between Moseley and the Pirates at Billesley Common have been draws, with a cumulative tally of 62-62.

Plymouth Albion will travel to Richmond to play London Scots hoping to show that the 36-15 win over the Welsh Exiles last weekend - their first home win of the season in the league - was no flash in the pan. Bristol will seek to continue their free-scoring form at Bedford, who conceded 50 points last weekend. The team that scored that half-century, Leeds, travel to play Ealing. On Sunday leaders Welsh play the team snapping at their heels, the Rotherham (or should that be North Nottinghamshire?!) Titans.

Friday February 7
Moseley v Cornish Pirates, 19:30

Saturday February 8
London Scottish v Plymouth Albion, 14:30
Bedford Blues v Bristol Rugby, 15:00
Ealing Trailfinders v Leeds Carnegie, 15:00

Sunday February 9
London Welsh v Rotherham Titans, 14:30


And finally

The weather looks set to put paid to most if not all local rugby. Confirmation of the Les Quennevais v St Jacques game set for 12noon on Saturday is awaited. Two Jersey sides are away - the United Banks Ladies travel to Havant on Saturday, while Jersey Athletic have a potentially pivotal Zoo Shield clash against Richmond Vikings, although this game is subject to a 1pm pitch inspection on Friday, 24 hours before the scheduled KO.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Tom Innes

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