Preview to Barking (a) 10.03.12


Lassie's lunch and a mayhem of Clyde-Smiths as Jersey go to the Dogs

In a week that has seen Jersey fans debating the merits of a new limited edition team shirt, the phrase 'dog's breakfast' has sprung to some people's minds. The job for Ben Harvey's squad this weekend is to avoid becoming an afternoon meal for the cornered Barking Dogs.

The home team are in said corner because they have won just five of their 24 games and lie bottom of National One. Barring some freak-show mathematics - not that it's a freak-show I'd pay to see - a loss to Jersey will signal the end of the line: relegation for Barking just 10 months after promotion was almost theirs.

If current form was the be-all-and-end-all, the referee would blow the whistle at 2pm on Saturday, and then again straight afterwards to signal 'no contest.' Jersey have won 18 'on the spin' and take on a side who have lost 13 of their 14 games.

And yet... and yet... [stop repeating yourself... stop repeating yourself... Web Ed] it's very clear that on their day, the Dogs can beat anyone. They've done the double over Fylde, for goodness sake, and in October they lifted their legs on the bonfire of Ealing's nine-match unbeaten start to the season.

The chance to stave off relegation, and add Jersey to the list of leading clubs they've disposed of, should mean there's little motivational talk needed in the home dressing room before the game. But there'll nevertheless be some geeing up, not least from skipper Andrew 'Hendo' Henderson, who will be busting to impress against the team he left last summer after contributing significantly to the promotion-winning campaign of 2010/11.

News from the Jersey camp
Jersey set off on Friday evening for an 'old-school' one-night trip to London, buoyed by the return of some significant injury victims.

Lock Toby Clyde-Smith, who sustained an ankle injury in August that became so serious it almost wiped out his season, made a brief appearance against Blaydon at the weekend and is set to start against Barking, while younger brother Charlie may earn a rare start at hooker ahead of Dave Felton.

Among the backs, scrum-half Nicky Griffiths is back in contention, and so too Mikey Le Bourgeois, who could play a part from the bench. Both players were injured against Ealing on the first Saturday in January, having had mixed seasons up to that point: Griffiths started the first four games of the campaign, but was then side-lined through a wrist injury and played just an hour's rugby in two sub appearances, while 'Le Booj' had played every game bar one at that stage and kicked the 142 points that still keep him fourth in the division rankings even after seven games out.

Otherwise than accommodating the above changes, the squad should be little changed from last Saturday's match against Blaydon, which the Islanders eventually won 28-7 after trailing at half-time. The contest included two trade-marks of the Jersey campaign to date: the early concession of a try - 11 of a total of 34 conceded have come within 10 minutes of kick-off - and a late bonus point - the sixth time the bonus has been secured in the final 15 minutes.

Director of Rugby Ben Harvey's biggest selection headache comes at scrum-half where Griffiths, Dave McCormack and Brendan O'Brien are all fit and available; Harvey would like to have something approaching this wealth of resources in other positions.

Any previous? Remember, remember...
Barking's Bonfire Night visit to Jersey saw something of a game of two halves. The visitors scored early through Chris Ashwin's try from a rare James Copsey error, but Jersey's full-back atoned with a try of his own, to add to a Sanders' effort, to make it 20-7 at the break.

The game was broken open by three tries in 10 minutes after the break, two for Guy Thompson and one for Le Booj, and though Barking rallied slightly with catch-and-drive tries by Burns and Dwyer, the hosts recovered to claim the final two tries of a lively afternoon. Final score 51-21 in front of 1,876 people at St Peter.

Teams from Nov 5 were: Jersey: Copsey, Maggs, Bishop, Sanders, Dawson, Le Bourgeois, McCormack, Landick, Clyde-Smith, Evans, Hannay, Brownrigg, O'Brien S, Thompson, Bell (capt). Replacements: Brennan, Trower, Turner, O'Brien B, Lang.
Barking: Nelson, Broughton, Henderson (capt), Burcham, Hardy, Ashwin, Gash, Mullins, Bloomberg, Ambrose E, Burns, Smith, Ngan, Reynolds, Dwyer. Replacements: Ambrose F, Kavanagh, Kersey, Davey, Neale.

Barking - a potted history
It all started in 1930 as Park Modern Old Boys. Park Modern was a rugby playing school in the borough and their first headmaster, Bill Easterby, Headmaster of Park Modern School in Barking, founded the club as Park Modern Old Boys in 1930. The club were based at the school grounds until the 1960s, and in 1974 the name changed to Barking Park, with the 'Park' dropped just two years later.

Goresbrook became home in 1989 and in 1994 the club attained National League status. In 2004-05 Barking won promotion to Level Three, although their stay lasted only two seasons, and underlined the need to make the most of home-grown players and live within their needs. One relegation nearly led to another, but National League status was preserved with a win at Mounts Bay on the last day of the 2007-08 season.

In 2008-09 Barking finished seventh, but also added a new stand and floodlighting and recruited ex-England (one-cap) international Alex Codling as Director of Coaching. The stage was set for 2009-10 when 26 wins from 28 games delivered automatic promotion and a return to National One/ Level Three. They also contested the short-lived RFU Championship for Level Four against 2N winners Macclesfield, but lost 30-26 at Twickers.

Last season saw a titanic struggle with the moneybag Exiles from the other side of town. London Scottish lost some early games but launched a tenacious pursuit of leaders Barking, to the extent that the title, and promotion, was on the line when the two sides met at Goresbrook in early May. The rest is history, but anyone who missed it should read this - Barking went into the closing minute with a 13-10 lead against 14 Exiles following a yellow card, and only needed to keep possession to secure the title - and then click this -

[warning - Barking types are about as fond of discussing this incident as members of the Jersey committee are about chatting about the five-point deduction last October. I'd stick to the weather if I was you].

Barking in 2011/12
The near-miss last May (he says, breaking his own recommendation within 60 seconds of typing it) was described by some at Barking as a blessing in disguise. "The team may have been up to The Championship, but I'm not sure about the rest of the club was..." was a typical comment.

Blessing or not, there were certainly some significant changes soon after the season ended, with Alex Codling moving to London Scottish as Forwards Coach and a large number of players leaving Goresbrook for pastures new.

The Dogs struggled to regroup in time for the August start, and although they defeated an equally under-cooked Blaydon on the Bank Holiday weekend, September featured four straight defeats.

October was a purple patch, with wins over Fylde, the Bees and Ealing, but the defeat in Jersey marked the start of the current grim run. The only 'W' since the clocks changed was the 20-19 success over Fylde in January, courtesy of a Steve Hihetah try and five penalties, including a nerveless late winner, from Craig Ratford.

Last weekend the Dogs crossed London looking to secure a double over Ealing, but finished well-beaten in an 11-try Barbarians-style romp at Vallis Way. It was 28-7 to the Trailfinders after 29 minutes; 20 minutes later they led 35-34! After 10 scoreless minutes, the longest spell of the game, Ealing stretched clear with a burst of tries to finish 59-34. Hihetah and flanker Tom Yellowtrees both claimed two tries.

One of Barking's stand-out players has been 'Hendo' in the centre - after playing 29 out of Jersey's 30 games in 2010/11 he has played all 24 matches for his new club, scored nine tries and earned selection for the England Counties squad facing Ireland next weekend.

Try-scoring has been one of the problems for the Dogs, with no-one other than Hendo claiming more than five. Chris Ashwin has been leading kicker with 138 points, augmented by 36 from Ratford, who was top-scorer with 277 points in 2010/11.

Winger Charles Broughton has played 23 games this season, but around half of the 20-man squad who came to Jersey are unavailable for the return match. Front-rowers Ed Ambrose and Sean Mullins should feature from the touring party, plus flanker Sam Reynolds, while the return from injury of James Ngan is significant - the flanker is the only one of six players selected for England Counties' duty last season still at Goresbrook and could bring the sort of open-side skills that Guy Thompson - now injured - displayed for Jersey on November 5.

Barking Triv
* Famous Barking Old Boys are former President Jason Leonard OBE (England and British & Irish Lion) and Kris Chesney (Saracens, England Sevens & Toulon). Famously-good tourist that he is, Jason was over in November with Barking and set such a fearsome pace on the red wine on the eve of the game that Jersey Chairman Bill Dempsey was almost declared missing-in-action the following afternoon

* The club has close links with Saracens, and in the other direction with the local Robert Clack School which acts as a feeder and is able to give opportunities to local youngsters

* Brothers Francis and Ed Ambrose, both front row players, have each received red cards so far this season, against Fylde and the Bees respectively

* Barking's 17 cards this season is a total exceeded by only one club - Jersey (one red, 17 yellow)

* Barking's bench is, in terms of tries, the least impactful in the league. Only two tries have been claimed by replacement Dogs, although the dodginess of this stat is illustrated by the fact that this figure is shared by title contenders Ealing

* Jersey 2s beat Barking 19-15 at St Peter in November, avenging a sound thrashing at Goresbrook the previous season

* The club's programme is edited from around 2,000 miles away by a former President who is now based in Rhodes and involved with the local team Rodos Colossi.

Rivals' round-up
As the season moves to a close, we'll keep you posted on our main promotion rivals, Ealing and Fylde, who are currently eight points adrift of JRFC.

Ealing, above Fylde on points difference (+224 against +169, both having 86 points and 16 wins), beat Barking last weekend, the game is described above. They travel to struggling Cambridge this Saturday, and then it's: Tyne (h); Macc (a); Cov (h), Fylde (a) and Bees (h).

Fylde had a high-scoring game of their own last Saturday, recovering from 23-10 down after 43 minutes to score six tries in half an hour and win 48-10. They are away at Cov on Saturday, and the rest of the run-in is: Rosslyn P (a); Bees (h); Blackheath (a), Ealing (h) and Jersey (a).

Following the game
Those who can't make it to East London this weekend needn't lose touch with the build-up to Jersey v Barking, and the action on Saturday from 2pm. Options for keeping tabs include:

* Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's 'Sportscene' from 6- 7pm on Friday, and live updates on Saturday afternoon (available online and on the 'wireless')
* Preview in Friday's JEP and full match coverage on Monday
* Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter, the club's increasingly-popular Facebook site, and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
* Match report on Channel 103 soon after the final whistle
* Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online.

And Finally
Some other important fixtures this weekend:

* Jersey 2nds entertain Cardiff side St Peter's, at St Peter (spooky) on Saturday at 12noon

* The match will be followed by Six Nations on the big screens. All Italian supporters are urged to come up for the game v Wales at 2.30pm to ensure the home side aren't drowned out; Italian family ancestry not necessary, you just have to have eaten spaghetti, driven a Fiat or consumed the qualifying standard of two Peronis during the past 12 months; while at 5pm it's Ireland v Scotland

* On Sunday, Jersey United Banks play HMP La Moye in the Doug Tranter Plate at St Peter at 12noon. This is the first of the two finals this season in the competition honouring JRFC's former President, and his wife Sheila will hopefully be on hand to present the trophy, after which it's France v England at 3pm

* And finally finally [I warned you; I warned you; Web Ed], good luck to Jersey Under 11s who play Barking on Saturday at 11.30 at Goresbrook in the curtain-raiser tomorrow.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby

Tom Innes

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