Preview to Blaydon (H) 03.03.1201/03/2012
A visit from Blaydon at the turn of the year with JRFC on a roll, sat in 2nd place in the league and Blaydon faultering in the bottom third of the table would have seemed a weekend to look forward to. Since then though, this proud club from the North East that dates back to the 1880's has been in a rich vein of form, that has seen them complete the double over Fylde this season, notch up a heavy win at home against the Bees and upset title chasers Ealing before finally being 'checked' last weekend with a battling draw against Coventry.
Competing for the 4th season in succession at this level, Blaydon, bar a minor disaster, have already done enough to maintain their status for another year and are now playing for 'fun' and 'pride'. The team who are making their first trip to Jersey will arrive full of confidence, knowing that they have the form to upset the best.
Perhaps the two bits of comfort that Jersey can take into the game is that Blaydon are not seen as great travellers, with only a third of their results being achieved away from home and, with a total home attendance for matches this season at just over 2,600, they are not a side used to playing in front of large, noisy crowds that have become standard place at St Peters.
Jersey themselves come into this fixture having had a welcome week off following a bruising encounter away from home in their last game against Sedgley Park. The squad has had to dig hard at times to keep up the impressive winning streak, and has called upon the services of 3 players from the U18's section of the Academy at different points of the season. This indeed bodes well for the future, and what has undoubtedly been a massive learning curve for the youngsters has been expertly managed.
When the two sides met before Christmas in late October, Jersey won narrowly 12-6 in a competitive match that was thanks largely to some gritty defence, especially in the second half when down to 13 men, combined with too many missed opportunities for Blaydon. That victory was the 4th in a run that has now extended to 17 and the St Peter's faithful will clearly hope to see a more emphatic result on Saturday.
News from the Jersey camp
The injury list is still weighing down heavily on Jersey's squad, however it is hoped that a few may be on their way back…
Following a severe knee injury to Graham Bell at Sedgley, the team will have its third match-day skipper of the season, details not yet revealed.
Money is being raised on Saturday for prop, James Ellershaw who sustained multiple injuries in a car crash on the Mainland on the 1st October and who has been unable to play any further part in Jersey's season.
Proceeds from the pre-match lunch raffle will be going towards this, as will money raised from the auction of one of the new signed shirts. Further to that, representatives will be circulating the ground with buckets before and during the match - please give generously.
A bit about our opponents and players to look out for
The player of the moment is without question prop forward, Robbie Kalbraier who has scored 8 tries in the last 5 outings including the opener and winner against Ealing and 2 more last week against Cov.
Robbie is described as one of the cornerstones of the formidable Blaydon pack and, along with 2nd row Chris Wearmouth has over 100 caps to his name.
Robbie is joined on the other side of the scrum by ex Falcons player, Micky Ward who is also the current director of rugby having joined the ranks at the start of the season. Micky gave himself a game off last weekend and so will doubtless be raring to do battle.
The 'rose between two thorns' playing at hooker is the captain, Matt Hall who with over 150 caps is a stalwart of the club and who has recently been selected to play for England Counties against Ireland on Friday 16th March - this is his 3rd season of representative rugby.
In the three-quarters, Andrew Baggett is a reliable goal-kicker who has scored 132 points with the boot and 1 try.
At the start of the season there was a fair amount of chat and speculation about the number of players who had been signed on dual registration from Newcastle, but this has not materialised to much and the squad that, like Jersey had its fair share of injuries, is largely home-produced.
Blaydon have a very early start scheduled - leaving Newcastle at 5.45am to fly via Southampton before arriving in Jersey around mid morning.
Among the 50+ supporters who are expected to travel is one lucky chap + partner who by day plies his trade in a local shipyard. Earlier in the season, Blaydon held a fund-raising raffle selling tickets at £5 each with the prize a trip to Jersey, and raised over £1,500 in the process.
History of Blaydon RFC
With a history that can be traced back officially to 1888, the club first played at Path Head. Its home moved a couple of times before becoming established at its current location, Crow Trees in the early 1950's.
Since then, money has been invested to develop the clubhouse, stand and install match floodlights. The latest new facilities include three functions suites, a gym with around 1,000 members and space for a weekly car-boot sale that runs weekly from March to November and attracts vendors and customers from miles around - don't expect there to be any space left if you turn up after 7am on a dry Sunday. These factors have played a key part in the financial stability of this successful community club.
Famous 'sons' of the club include Micky Skinner and Steve Bainbridge who were both in attendance to open the new clubhouse in October 1996. This was a great year for Blaydon as it also featured the lifting, for the first time, of the Durham Cup thanks to a 22-3 win over Darlington.
Another former star of the club was Martin Donnelly who played in the unbeaten season of 1946/47. Donnelly holds a unique position in that he won an England rugby cap against Ireland in 1947 and also played International cricket for New Zealand, the country of his birth, winning 7 caps with a top score of 206 vs England at Lords in 1949.
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Blaydon v Jersey v through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's 'Sportscene' from 6- 7pm on Friday, and regular updates on Saturday afternoon
• Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 at 5.10pm on Saturday
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online