Preview to Bristol (H)22/03/2013
Snowmageddon, Cabot Circus, and Elvis enters the building...
As a regular visitor to the Island in recent years, Andy Robinson can be assured of a warmer welcome in Jersey than the one he received after being appointed Bristol's Director of Rugby in February.
'CAMERA BAG PERVERT AT CABOT CIRCUS' screamed the Bristol Evening Post's front-page headline, beneath a half-page pic of a smiling Robinson. Happily, on closer inspection, the two stories were entirely unconnected, and in fact Bristol supporters seem to have been cheered by the club's show of ambition in appointing someone who has coached at the highest level, as well as being in charge of Scotland. Some have even generously overlooked the fact that Robinson formerly played for a nearby club, known in print only as 'B**h' to many Bristolians.
The club have already begun recruiting for 2013/14, with a number of proven operators from the Premiership lined up for what looks like a serious attempt at promotion once Newcastle have 'passed through'.
There have also been casualties, however, and at the start of this week Head Coach Liam Middleton was shown the door after less than three weeks 'co-habitation' with his new boss. Bris have lost successive games to Nottingham and Moseley and know that defeat to Jersey is likely to spell the end of their ambitions to finish in the top four this season and to have a crack at Newcastle in the play-offs.
Jersey have also been turned over on their home patch by Nottingham this month, but at least gathered a precious bonus point last weekend in the game that defied 'Snowmageddon'. The loss means this season's home record in the Championship reads won five, lost six, and the Islanders will be desperate to gain another home success and hopefully gain more ground over relegation rivals Doncaster (who visit Bedford).
It still looks like it may boil down to a one-game eliminator between the bottom two, at St Peter on April 13th, and even from three weeks away there's a frisson of excitement about that one. But first up it's Bristol, a huge challenge for Jersey's squad in front of what the Island side hope will be one of the largest crowds of the season at St Peter.
Team news from the rival camps
Jersey welcome Bristol as visitors for the penultimate home match of the season, with director of rugby Ben Harvey targeting a win that could confirm his side's destiny.
The Islanders are six points clear of 12th-placed Doncaster Knights, and Harvey feels that a win at St Peter tomorrow - kick-off is at 3pm - could be the result that cements Jersey's Championship status for 2012/13.
"I'm expecting a really tough game against a side who are pushing for the play-offs, but we have played well in recent weeks and are confident as we go into this game," Harvey said. "Nothing will be decided this weekend, but we think we'll be setting Doncaster an extremely tough task if we can get four points from this match."
Harvey selects a largely unchanged side, although lock Nathan Hannay is injured and will miss just his second league game of the season. Rob Anderson deputises, while in the back-row Fred Silcock returns in a straight swap with Kingsley Lang, who slots in on the bench.
Jersey's replacements also include back-row man Joe Buckle, on loan from Bath, and new signing Elvis Taione. The Tongan hooker (above), who arrived on the Island last Saturday after being signed just ahead of the transfer deadline at the start of March, last encountered Bristol Director of Rugby Andy Robinson last November, when Tonga won 21-15 in Aberdeen in Robinson's final match in charge of Scotland.
Disappointed to attract a season-low crowd of 1,410 for the
rearranged game against Nottingham last weekend, Jersey are
expecting a massive surge in attendance, including a substantial
away contingent, for this crucial encounter.
Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and jersey.com
1 Sean McCarthy
2 Dave Felton
3 Jon Brennan
4 Rob Anderson
5 Dave Markham
6 Charlie Walker-Blair
7 Fred Silcock
8 Guy Thompson
9 Nicky Griffiths (capt)
10 Michael Le Bourgeois
11 Ed Dawson
12 Mark Foster
13 Max Stelling
14 Mark McCrea
15 Barry Davies
Bristol make a first ever visit to St Peter to face Jersey in the RFU Championship on Saturday, looking to end a run of two successive league defeats (3pm KO).
Andy Robinson makes six changes to the side that went down 23-14 to Moseley as the Director of Rugby takes the reins for the first time, following Liam Middleton's departure on Monday.
In the backline, Jon Goodridge is set for his first RFU Championship appearance since New Year's Day, while Adrian Jarvis returns to first team action after being sidelined for two weeks with a head injury.
Robinson welcomes Argentinian duo Mariano Sambucetti and Gaston Cortes back into the pack, while Glen Townson starts in place of Ben Glynn, who is set to be out for up to six weeks with ankle ligament damage.
In the back row, skipper Iain Grieve will make his first league start since November, while Marco Mama switches to No. 8.
Bristol revert to a four forwards and three backs split on the replacements bench.
Bristol: Jon Goodridge; George Watkins, Fautua
Otto, Luke Eves, Ryan Edwards; Adrian Jarvis, James Grindal; Kyle
Traynor, Ross Johnston, Gaston Cortes, Mariano Sambucetti, Glen
Townson, Iain Grieve (c), Redford Pennycook, Marco Mama.
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Bruce Douglas, Roy Winters, Mitch Eadie, Ruki Tipuna, Tristan Roberts, Jack Tovey.
The Memorial Stadium was a fittingly appropriate setting on November 11, with an immaculately-observed minute's silence bookended by a bugler's Last Post and Reveille.
Once the match got underway, three tries in a 20-minute spell midway through the first half helped Bristol to a 17-6 interval lead. 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 collectors' item (he rarely gets the chance) conversion by Donovan Sanders. But the Islanders also suffered two yellow cards, plus a red for Ashley Maggs' tip-tackle against his former club.
For a full match report see HERE.
Bristol in 2012/13
Head Coach Liam Middleton began the build-up to his second season in charge with a busy spell of transfer activity. The incoming brigade were spearheaded by former Leicester scrum-half James Grindal, 32, who racked up around 220 league appearances in a 13-season career including spells at both Welford Road and with Newcastle.
Grindal is backed up by the experienced Kiwi number 9 Ruki Tipuna, while at fly-half there are also two tried-and-tested options in Adrian Jarvis, who spent three years at the Mem from 2008-11 and has since rejoined via Leeds and London Irish, and Tristan Roberts, whose former clubs include Cinderford, Gloucester, Moseley and Doncaster.
Although the half-back positions may best reflect the strength of the Bristol squad, there's no shortage of talent and experience elsewhere. Several players are back at Bristol after spells elsewhere, such as centre Luke Eves, who was with Bristol for four years and then went to Newcastle in 2010 before returning.
The Bristol back-line includes powerful centre Fautua Otto, and former Gloucester full-back Jon Goodridge.
Added beef in the forwards arrived this summer in the shape of props Kyle Traynor from Edinburgh and Gaston Cortes from Cordoba in Argentina, and the Argentine influence continues with nine-times-capped Mariano Sambucetti in the second row, alongside Roy Winters. Born in 1975, Winters spent five years at both Bedford and Harlequins early in his career before joining Bris in 2005.
Back row options include the former Gloucester flanker James Merriman and another returnee via Kingston Park, Red Pennycook, whose brother Chevvy was formerly at the Mem but now plays for London Scottish.
Having topped the pile in the regular season last time out, Bristol were one of the favourites for a play-off spot this season, although their odds were not surprisingly longer than newly-relegated Newcastle, who were setting out their stall to return whence they came at the earliest opportunity.
Playing the Falcons in their first game, Bristol finishing beaten but not disgraced by 20-37.
Things were likely to get easier, and so they did with gritty but reasonably emphatic wins over Doncaster and the Pirates, but then Bris met a Leeds side at its peak and were on the wrong end of a 50-31 scoreline at Headingley.
This signalled the start of a rough patch that continued with a home defeat by Moseley where The Rugby Paper described a game where Bristol were trying to convert four points for a win into a full-house five, but lost possession and ended up with just a single point in a 21-22 defeat. And then it was up to Rotherham, and another loss, by 23-16.
A home win over Bedford was followed by a real shock - the 63-7 hammering against Nottingham at Meadow Lane remains the biggest scoreline in the Championship this season.
Middleton's position was said to be under review prior to Jersey's visit to the Mem in November, but his side responded with a purple patch, winning that game and subsequent encounters against Plymouth Albion, Scottish and Doncaster to move right int play-off contention.
There was a New Year's Day blip in the form of a defeat at Cornish Pirates, but otherwise Bristol remained on a roll. Including an unbeaten B&I campaign (setting up a home game with Leinster 'A' in the quarters), they actually registered 11 wins in a 12-game stretch, including league victories over Leeds, Rotherham and Bedford, the final result completing a notable double.
But the last two weeks have been difficult ones, and after a home defeat against Nottingham (19-23) and another loss to Moseley (23-14 at Billesley Common), Middleton's tenure was ended.
History of Bristol Rugby Club
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 (below) 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, who scored 384 tries for Bristol in 519 appearances between 1968 and 1986.
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.
No picture evidence survives, on t'Internet at least, of Harvey's time at Bristol, although there is a relevant 'exhibit' (above) from his subsequent time at Worcester in the late 90s.
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.
Coming to St Peter
Tickets for the match are £15 for adults, £10 for Jersey members on production of a membership card, £3 for juniors (13 to 16 inclusive) and free to those aged 12 and under. The £3 concession rate will also be available to any full-time student on production of the appropriate identification.
Tickets will be on sale on the gate from 12noon on Saturday, with the ground and facilities open from then onwards. Tickets can also be purchased on Friday evening, when the Pavilion Bar will be open for a pre-match reception between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, with free nibbles and the chance for rival supporters to socialise ahead of the following day's game.
Parking will be available on pitch 3 at the Rugby Club, accessed via the Jersey Bowl entrance. Spectators are urged to allow plenty of time to access the car park, or consider other means of transport such as taxis, a lift, or the bus (services #9 and #15, with duplicates on the #9 - full info from Liberty buses).
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Bristol through the following channels:
* Live commentary on BBC Jersey, available online and on your transistor-wireless device, with the show starting at 2pm, plus preview on Friday evening from 5.30 to 6pm.
* Match report on Channel 103 just after 5pm
* TV highlights on Channel TV's website, and on Monday evening on ITV at around 6.15pm, or on BBC TV Channel Islands at 6.30pm on Monday.
* Preview in Friday's JEP, the Inside Centre pull-out with Saturday's paper and full match coverage on Monday
* Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
The Championship this weekend
The original fixture list featured a rare proliferation of Saturday games at the traditional 3pm KO, but the weather has already mucked up those plans. With limited space available in the calendar for rearranged games, host clubs will be desperate to stage matches if possible and hoping the weather is less serious than forecast.
Friday: Nottingham v Newcastle
Saturday: Bedford v Doncaster; London Scottish v Plymouth; Moseley v Leeds
Sunday: Rotherham v Cornish Pirates (game postponed by 23hrs from original Saturday slot due to weather conditions)
Two local games of interest this weekend: the gentlemen of Banks entertain LQ at Grainville on Saturday at 11.30am, while that afternoon Banks Ladies are in London taking on Harlequins.
Hats off to all those whose efforts led to the Jersey v Nottingham game going ahead last weekend. This was a truly heroic effort after the heavy snow of Monday and Tuesday. See HERE for pictures.
We've been encouraged to hear progress reports regarding the JRFC Treasurer, Adam Budworth, and his wife Glenda following their accident during the blizzards. Adam will hopefully be back on the Island this weekend following surgery on the mainland, which by all accounts went well, while Glenda may shortly be released from hospital. JRFC extends its continued good wishes to both of them at the start of what will be a long road to a full recovery.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby