Preview to Fylde (h) 28.04.12


Come Fylde with me, let's Fylde let's Fylde away
If you can use some exotic booze
There's some bars in far Jersey
Come on and Fylde with me, let's Fylde, let's Fylde away

The long-awaited final chapter of the National One season is upon us, and Ol' Blue Eyes hit the nail on the head, except perhaps for the subsequent line that 'Weather-wise it's such a lovely day'. There's even some 'exotic booze' for the occasion - see 'And Finally.'

Some of those who are attending were hoping this might be a promotion play-off with both teams vying for the title, but Jersey's ability to piece together lengthy winning streaks (22 of their last 23 outings) has seen them pull clear, winning the title and promotion (woo-hoo!) while Fylde's inconsistency has seen the Lancastrians rack up 10 defeats thus far.

Perhaps it's a War of the Roses thing, but Fylde seem to be having a tilt at Wharfedale's crown of bringing the most supporters to Jersey, helped by having had 11 months' notice since the draft fixtures for this season were distributed at about 5.30pm on May 28th last year, while Jersey's players were still in the shower after their play-off success over Loughborough.

The travelling hordes - just over 200 is the record to beat - will be meeting in one of St Helier's finest ale houses on Friday, although it is also one of the smallest, so could be almost as crowded as the JRFC ground at St Peter on Saturday, where the highest crowd of the season, 3,648 against Rosslyn Park, should be beaten unless the weather intervenes.

Fylde will have some luminaries in their party, including club stalwart, former England and Lions' captain and IRB grand fromage Bill Beaumont, who will present the National One trophy to Jersey after the game. This alone should act as motivation for both teams - Jersey determined to collect the spoils on a winning note in front of their home fans, but the visitors striving to show their credentials and register a unique double over Jersey in the Islanders' brief National League journey thus far.

Also in the touring masses will be another former England man, the classy, gliding centre with 25 caps in the 1960s, Malcolm Phillips, who was President of the RFU in 2004/05. Chairman Michael Brennand, is marking his last game in the hot-seat after a sterling stint in spearheading the rising fortunes of one of the North's leading clubs. Coaching consultant Brian Ashton isn't normally seen on away trips, so may be missing - if so he must have a very tempting alternative engagement.

Jersey's retaliation for the above big swingers are set to include golfer Ian Woosnam, who joined the celebrations when the team arrived back from Coventry last Sunday, Formula One's Derek Warwick, ex Lieutenant Governor of Jersey Sir Michael Wilkes and former heavyweight boxer Billy Walker. Ex-Scotland international Cameron Mather is doing a stint in the sponsors' tent, and I see Bath are without a game this weekend, so perhaps 'Banners' will be over too?

It's a 3pm kick-off at St Peter, and all spectators are urged to turn up in good time.

News from the Jersey camp
It's not exactly been a normal past two weeks, but Director of Rugby Ben Harvey managed to get his side to focus on getting the job done at Coventry last weekend and will be aiming to do the same against Fylde.

With that in mind, and no significant changes to the bulletins from the medical room, the squad is little changed. There is no place for dual-registered Leicester Tigers flanker Jethro Rawling, with a start at flanker set to go to the man who replaced him at half-time against Coventry, Charlie Clyde-Smith, who has played most of his rugby at hooker this season. CCC's place on the bench is likely to pass to winger Ed Dawson, leaving the Islanders with a 3:2 forwards/ backs split among the reserves.

Any previous? A long, long, time ago...
Fylde 29 Jersey 27

The August Bank Holiday saw Jersey lose their first game in National One, which was also the first defeat of any kind since the previous November (at Southend, since you ask).

In a portent of what wasn't to come, Jersey scored first through debutant Ross Broadfoot, but were on the back foot for the remainder of the first half, trailing 24-8 at the break after Mike Waywell and Nick Royle (2) crossed for the hosts.

The second-half recovery began through a Nick Trower try but was then halted when Steve Depledge crossed for Fylde's bonus-point try (29-15). But a solo effort from Donovan Sanders reduced the arrears and when Guy Thompson clinched Jersey's first bonus point (of 2) with his first try of a productive campaign, the Islanders were just a kick away from a draw or win. However Fylde hung on and the bragging rights between the two promoted clubs went to the northern corner.

Fylde in 2011/12
Newly-promoted, Fylde got off to a flyer in Nat 1 and not just on opening day - five straight wins was an impressive statement.

The first signs of temporary difficulty were evident in October with a hat-trick of defeats by Blaydon, Barking (by 31-18 at the Woodlands with 14 men, how does that happen?!) and Cambridge, and although the ship was righted, the run-up of games to Christmas featured three further defeats, to Rosslyn Park, Wharfedale and Ealing. The Trailfinders game at Vallis Way was a cracker - Fylde trailed 28-8 at the break, but Ealing scored just three points after that, a Ben Ward penalty that went in off the post. Just as well too,as the visitors had stormed back into contention and collected two BPs in losing 31-29.

A pair of wins to start January meant Fylde remained in contention for the league titles, but such ambitions were shot down when both Blaydon and Barking completed the double over them.

More recently, Fylde have continued to show the potential to dismantle teams from the top 6 (Macclesfield by 48-23 and Rosslyn Park by 44-24 being two examples) but also suffered a 39-26 loss at Cov and were unseated by the form team of the latter stages, Blackheath (59-22), the 10th defeat of the campaign.

Last weekend the two highest try-scorers in National 1 met at the Woodlands, so the law of sod dictated that there's only be two tries in the first half, Ealing leading Fylde 7-5. But the Londoners were then rocked by a burst of scoring - a Josh Beaumont try, a Nick Royle interception for his second try of the day, and seven points from the boot of Richard Kenyon. From 22-7 enough, Fylde would have expected to close out victory, but in fact a hat-trick by the relatively unsung Owen Bruynseels (just 20 tries this season against 41 by the record-breaking Phil Chesters) brought them back into it, and if Ward had landed a conversion from three tricky attempts they may even have won. As it was, Ealing took three points to cement the runners-up spot in National One.

Fylde still lead Ealing in the try-scoring stakes, by 135-134. Approaching two-thirds of this haul comes from a dangerous set of backs who on their day can tear apart most sides. Their encounter with a Jersey defence that has conceded only 12 points a game, the lowest in the National Leagues, will play a significant part in deciding the result.

Top of the charts in terms of tries is winger Oli Brennand who has 27 to date, to the approval of his Chairman/ Father, and is three ahead of England sevens speedster Nick Royle, likely to be on the opposite wing this Saturday. Chris Briers, who joined from Doncaster last summer (having also played for Sale, Orrell, Rotherham and Sedgley Park) has scored 15 tries - and plays alongside his brother Steve, who is partnered in the centre by Waywell, one of many England Counties players.

The half-backs are Kenyon, who has kicked 140 points this season, and scrum-half Martin Wallwork, who is also the Club Secretary. Although Jersey had a groundsman in the 1st XV until his untimely injury, it is rare, possibly unique for an honorary official to turn out in his club's 1st XV at this level. Jersey's Ben Harvey faced calls to retaliate this week and select Wallwork's Jersey counterpart William Church for an end-of-season cameo, but this campaign seems unlikely to bear fruit.

A bit like Jersey's backs, the Fylde pack get less of the credit but have been pivotal in their team's impressive season. Two members with Championship experience, prop Alistair Livesey and lock Gareth Rawlings, will miss the trip to Jersey, but that still leaves an experienced core, notably lock Paul Arnold, who has formerly played at Caldy, Moseley, Nottingham, Sedgley and Orrell. Arnold currently holds the National League Record for most tries scored by a forward (27 for Caldy in 09/10 - currently under threat from Blackheath's Dave Allen who has 25). Arnold will be joined by Sam Beaumont in the engine room - the captain has played in every game and only missed around 100 minutes of rugby following substation.

Hooker Johnny Roddam is one of the few squad members who has played for a club south of the Pennines - albeit that his season-and-a-half stint with Harlequins finished a decade ago, having included a full 80 minutes for Quins in Heineken Cup match against Munster at Thomond Park.

Fylde's back-row will see Evan Stewart, formerly with Macclesfield and a prominent try-scorer (20 last season and 16 in this one so far), join forces with another Beaumont, Josh (there's a third son, Dan, who plays in the 2nd XV), and Steve McGinnis. The bench isn't too shoddy, especially at the back-end of the season - all five selected players have appeared at least 20 times for Fylde in 2011/12.

Fylde's coach is the combative red-head Mark Nelson, said to rival Macc's Geoff Wappett as the loudest in the league, who has worked alongside Brian Ashton and others to inspire some scintillating rugby by his team.

Fylde History
A colourful and eventful story began in 1919, with the toss of a coin among some Manchester businessmen to determine whether they would found a football or rugby club. The flip went rugby's way, and within a year the club were playing on the site of their current ground, the Woodlands.

The club merged with Blackpool Old Boys in the 1930s and successfully re-established itself after the war as a pre-eminent Lancashire club. The ground was purchased, the clubhouse extended and in 1970 the North West Counties played the Fijian Tourists at the Woodlands and attracted a record gate of 7,600.

Fylde's league history ranges between levels two and four of the English pyramid, with a stint at level two ending in 1999 with relegation and some significant financial losses, with the books balanced be selling a small portion of the ground. This money was not wasted and although there was a further relegation to level four in 2003, a splendid new clubhouse was opened two years later.

After some solid top-half finishes in the northern half of level four, 9th spot in 2009/10 was the club's lowest ranking, but they recovered to win National Two North last season by 14 points from Loughborough.

Famous sons (no, not Bill's)
Bill Beaumont was just too big a star to leave until this stage of the preview, so his name was blurted out excitedly in the intro along with Malcolm Phillips. But did you know that he was the longest-ever serving captain on Question of Sport, that his father played for Fylde, and that his penultimate game for England coincided with the legendary streak by Erica Roe, sparking the alleged comment by Steve Smith that "some bird's just run on with your bum on her chest Bill!"

But there are several other 'names' who deserve a mention, starting in the 1920s with 'Pop' Ogden, who was classed as the greatest kicker of his time, and was the originator of the 'round the corner' style of kicking now used by more or less all kickers worldwide.

In the same era as Bill Beaumont, a young Roger Uttley, subsequently skipper and then manager of England, and Brian Ashton, also wore the claret and gold. Other more recent internationals associated with Fylde include England wingers Tony Swift and Simon Smith, who were capped in the 1980s after leaving the Club, and locks Steve Bainbridge and Wade Dooley, established internationals who won further caps whilst with Fylde.

England 'A' winger Mark Preston, who subsequently starred for Wigan RL, had an amazing strike record scoring 98 tries in 131 appearances. But this achievement has been smashed by current wingers Royle and Brennand who both have reached the 'try per league game' benchmark.

Last season former England winger Jason Robinson was lured out of retirement to play in home games for Fylde. He made 13 appearances, helped achieve some hefty crowds (including 2,415 for his debut), and made many more tries than the four he actually scored.

Rivals' round-up
Although Jersey made it over the line last Saturday, there'll still plenty of interest to see what happens elsewhere in National One. Ealing are sure to finish second, and anything other than a big win over the Bees seems unlikely. Blackheath have 10 straight bonus point wins but won't be offered any favours by visitors Rosslyn Park who have slipped well out of contention since coming to Jersey as league leaders in January.

The division will also bid farewell to Stourbridge, Bees and Barking this Saturday, amid wishes of all the best. Interestingly the survival mark in Nat 1, which was 63 points in 2010/11, will be no higher than 50 this time around.

Loughborough are already assured of entering Nat 1 from N2N, alongside either Old Albanians or Richmond. OAs need a single bonus point from a trip to Launceston to seal the deal and leave Richmond hosting Caldy in next week's play-off.

The Premiership relegation 'decider' between Wasps and Newcastle is not until next weekend, which is also when the Championship play-offs begin - Bristol v Cornish Pirates and Bedford v London Welsh. The complex rules about ground eligibility mean Bristol are the only team who can actually be promoted - should they fail, both Wasps and Newcastle would survive (notwithstanding the former's financial problems).

Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Fylde through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's Sportscene from 6- 7pm on Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more rugby in Saturday's Inside Centre pull-out and a special souvenir supplement, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 soon after the final whistle on Saturday, plus updates during the match
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online, and on BBC TV Channel Islands at 6.30pm on Monday
Fylde's website is well worth a look including a preview from their perspective and lots of info including an extended history.

And Finally?
Even many Lancastrians do not know the origination of the word 'Fylde'. In fact, it dates back to Saxon times and means 'low lying ground between two Estuaries!' It is also the word that has been mis-spelt the most times ever in the history of the Jersey Evening Post.

The exotic booze referred to at the top of this stream-of-consciousness has been specially made by the Liberation Brewery. Champions' Ale is a 4.4% ABV moreish golden ale with pronounced maltiness balanced by a light hop finish, and will be available in the Barclays Pavilion at the club on Saturday, as well as at selected Liberation hostelries, including Ben Harvey's local!

All the best to Jersey United Banks who play the Hampshire Plate final against Southampton University on Sunday, and to Jersey Colts whose final league game, at home to Tottonians, is the warm-up on Saturday.

This won't be the last preview of 2011/12, but it's the last one on the national stage. It's been a new development this season, inspired by the efforts of, among others, Sedgley Park, Blackheath, Rosslyn Park and Fylde, and as well as being one of life's more enjoyable chores it's been great to get the occasional bit of positive feedback. Ay-thang-kyow!

Enjoy your weekend's rugby, and your summer
Tom Innes

Pack Up, Let's Fylde Away!


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