Preview to Pontypridd (H)11/10/2012
Will the last person to leave Pontypridd please turn out the lights?
Per capita at least, it's one of the biggest mass migrations of rugby folk in the modern era, on a par with the Cornish hordes who descended on Twickenham in 1991 for the County Championship Final.
More than 40 years since their last visit, Pontypridd's fanatical supporters had identified Jersey as a potential touring opportunity during the latter stages of last season. Confirmed promotion at this end, and a favourable British & Irish Cup draw, meant it was game on.
Within days of the draw being confirmed, coaches had been hired and days off booked, with hundreds of Ponty fans preparing to forsake the green, green grass of home for a trip to Jersey.
This is hard-core stuff: the official supporters' coaches are leaving Sardis Road at 3am on Friday. Ponty's ground has been nicknamed the House of Pain, which seems about right for anyone having to get up at two o'clock in the morning. Considerately, the clubhouse bar was due to open from 9pm on Thursday to cater for 'early arrivals' or those with 'alarm clock issues.'
For Jersey, the B&I is another fresh element in a season full of new experiences; Pontypridd are however gnarled veterans of the competition - all three runnings of it. Last season they reached the quarter-finals before succumbing to a heavy defeat to Leinster 'A' at Donnybrook, and in 2010/11 they went one better, despatching old rivals Llanelli 12-10 at the Q-F stage before losing 25-36 to Bristol at Sardis Road.
Both sides will have a break from league rugby: Jersey will park a Championship campaign that has delivered no wins and just a solitary bonus point in six games to date, while Ponty, reigning champions of the Principality Premiership in Wales, are sitting pretty this time around, with six wins from six to sit just behind Llandovery, whose record includes six bonus points to Ponty's four.
While the Welsh visitors may harbour ambitions of going 'all the way' this time round (a B&I Cup reference, nothing to do with meeting new friends in Mimosa later) Jersey hope that home advantage, and the perception of the RFU Championship as a stronger league than the Welsh Prem, will enable them to give a good account of themselves.
News from the Jersey camp
Director of Rugby Ben Harvey is looking to kick-start the season with a home cup win, and is likely to select a strong squad featuring little or no rotation of players. Harvey continues to be encouraged by players returning from injury - lock Paul Rodgers is in line for his first start, while prop Jon Brennan (above) is likely to be back in contention having recovered from a serious knee injury. As an official Jersey Ambassador following the recent sponsorship deal with Jersey Tourism, we trust 'JB' will say 'welcome to Jersey' before every scrum, and serve a tray of Ferrero Rocher to the visiting dressing room after the final whistle.
JB, Jersey's longest-serving player, who has spent 10 months on the sidelines after damaging his knee against Coventry in December; and Voss, 18, who made four appearances last season and signed a full-time contract in the summer.
In the starting XV, 37-year-old Player-Coach Ben Evans is rested against his fellow countrymen, with James Gethings wearing the number 3 shirt alongside hooker Dave Felton and loose-head Sean McCarthy. Paul Rodgers makes his first start since returning from injury, and the dislocated shoulder suffered by Talite Vaioleti in training this week sees Dave Markham come into the pack.
Nicky Griffiths and Mike Le Bourgeois remain in the half-back positions, while Ashley Maggs partners Dai Bishop in the centre. Both Bishop and Griffiths formerly played for the Dragons in Wales, and will be well-known to the visiting fans along with ex-Wales and Ospreys full-back Barry Davies.Jersey's man-of-the-match in last weekend's defeat at Nottingham, Ed Dawson, starts on the wing along with Ed Tellwright.
Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and jersey.com
Barry Davies, Ed Tellwright, Dai Bishop, Ashley Maggs, Ed Dawson, Mike Le Bourgeois, Nicky Griffiths; Sean McCarthy, Dave Felton, James Gethings, Nathan Hannay (Capt), Paul Rodgers, Dave Markham, Kingsley Lang, Guy Thompson. Replacements: Richard Barrington, Jon Brennan, Rob Anderson, James Voss, Dave McCormack, Donovan Sanders, James Copsey.
Ben Evans (pictured above with another famous Welshman, Keith Jarrett, who visited JRFC last season) is rested for the game with Ponty, but will be carrying out his coaching duties.
Pontypridd in 2012/13
The 'Valley Commandos', the reigning Principality Premiership Champions, began their season in fine form with a 28-3 win at Cross Keys, and then put Bedwas to the sword at Sardis Road, winning 55-27. Carmarthen tested Ponty more than most the following week, with Ponty winning 24-16 - one of the two dropped bonus points. In the last three weeks there have been wins over Bridgend (45-35), Neath (64-15) and Swansea (29-3).
The Ponty 1st team squad is made up almost entirely of Welsh-born players with an emphasis on youth. The captain is lock Chris Dicomidis, (above) who has also played for the Cyprus national team through his paternal grandfather. The Cypriot national side are called the Moufflons after the horned sheep (also above) that is a national emblem on the Medierranean island (but might be considered a bit kinky in Wales).
Out of contention for Pontypridd are winger Owen Jenkins with ankle ligament damage, centre Gavin Dacey with a fractured hand, scrum half Gareth James with a hamstring strain and locks Dafydd Davies and Cory Hill with hamstring and shoulder strains respectively.
Full back Adam Thomas and flankerRhys Shellard are away with the Wales Sevens squad, and scrum half Lewis Jones on senior duty with the Blues.
Having utilised a policy of squad rotation through the first six weeks of the season, Ponty again make nine changes from the starting line up that secured a home bonus point win over Swansea last Saturday.
Powerhouse centre Gary Williams claims a place in the team as does scrum half Carl Thomas having just returned from honeymoon. The key back row selection sees Ed Siggery retain the blind side flanker berth following his most recent man of the match display, with Wayne O'Connor returning as open side and Jake Thomas taking over the no8 role.
15.Geraint Walsh. 14.Lewis I Williams. 13.Dafydd Lockyer. 12.Gary Williams. 11.Owen Williams. 10.Dai Flanagan. 9.Carl Thomas. 1.Scott Roberts. 2.Huw Dowden. 3.Pat Palmer. 4.Craig Locke. 5.Chris Dicomidis - cpt. 6.Ed Siggery. 7.Wayne O'Connor. 8.Jake Thomas.
Replacements: 16.Joel Raikes. 17.Lewis K Williams. 18.Tom Pascoe. 19.Darran Harris. 20.Dan Godfrey. 21.Keiron Jenkins. 22.Jordan Sieniawski.
History of Pontypridd
The club was formed in 1876 by a group of young men who had moved to the area as part of the Industrial Revolution. One of the early players, Edward Treharne, was named in the first-ever Welsh international team in 1881.
The club resumed rugby after the Great War with "no ground, no kit, and not a penny to their name" but developed slowly to become an established and successful club, albeit one who retained an 'unfashionable' tag and were outside the perceived 'Big Five' in Wales.
The unfashionable status didn't stop Ponty having two more Welsh representatives, Glynn Davies and Russell Robbins, in the decade after World War Two ended, nor from winning the unofficial Welsh league in 1962/63, and in 1974 the club moved to its present home in Sardis Road.
The new ground witnessed considerable success, with Welsh Championship titles in 1976, 1978 and 1979. There may have been less to shout about in the 80s, but the 1990s saw an appearance in the inaugural Heineken Cup in 1995/96, and a first-ever Welsh Cup triumph the same season, repeated in 2002, 2006, and 2011. In 1997 Ponty won the league title, and this was followed by further league titles in 2011 and 2012. By this stage there was a Grand Final to conclude proceedings - Ponty enjoyed mixed fortunes in the showpiece game, with an 18-24 defeat to Llanelli in 2011 being followed by a 15-13 win in May of this year.
Famous players of recent years have included Neil Jenkins, current Head Coach Dale McIntosh, Morgan Stoddart, Gethin Jenkins, Martyn Williams, Matthew Rees, Ceri Sweeney and Michael Owen, although the majority earned their honours after leaving Ponty following the contentious introduction of regional rugby in Wales in 2003. There was a one-season alliance with Bridgend as the Celtic Warriors, but this franchise was disbanded in 2004, since when Ponty has continued as a club side - one of Wales' most successful.
Dale McIntosh has been with Pontypridd since his arrival in Wales from his native New Zealand in 1989. He made 454 appearances as a player prior to retiring in 2007, when he became Assistant Coach under Paul John, graduating to Head Coach in 2010. McIntosh won two Welsh caps in 1996/97 against South Africa and England.
Tour stories: Pontypridd in Jersey
Ponty are not making their debut appearance at St Peter today, the club having made three tours to Jersey between 1968 and 1971. The Welsh team were undefeated in six matches on the Island, but eye-witness accounts from players involved - several of them will be here today - testify to some full-blooded encounters, accompanied by enthusiastic 'après-ski' sessions in the old Clubhouse.
In 1968 Jersey's 1st XV, featuring names like Mike Engleman, Bobby Furness, Bill Lavarack, captain Brian Screen and debutant Mick Curzons actually led 9-8 at half-time against a Ponty side containing two of the club's most legendary names: the four-times-capped Welsh flanker Tommy David, whose other claim-to-fame was a role in 'that try' by 'that fellow' Gareth Edwards for the Baa-baa's in 1973. And Bob Penberthy, 'the bionic elbow', who played an astonishing 877 games for Ponty between 1961 and 1985.
The 1968 game was eventually lost by 9-30, with the home points through Barry Jones's try and two Peter Burger penalties, and a year later the Jersey 1st XV competed gamely again before going down 0-15, with Gareth Rees scoring a hat-trick of tries for Ponty. Dermot McQuillan came closest to scoring a try for Jersey but was bundled into a corner flag.
In 1971 the JEP ran the headline 'Welsh Visitors Dazzle - But Island Side Not Disgraced' above a match report of a 9-34 defeat. Furness skippered Jersey that day and our President David Lapidus played in the game, while his predecessor Engleman was referee. Jersey's points came from Furness with a drop-goal (4), Roger Thomas's try (3) and Ian Hamilton's conversion (2).
The Saturday warm-up games against Jersey's 'A' XV were unsurprisingly not as close, to the extent that Jersey's only points in the three encounters were from a John Langlois try in 1968. However the 'A' games may have played a significant role in softening up the tourists for Sunday's 1st team encounter.
Many thanks to Richard Evans, the Pontypridd historian, for unearthing details of these games, and to Brian Screen for obtaining cuttings from the JEP with full match reports.
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. These will be on sale at the club shop between 10am and 1pm on Friday. Later on Friday, the Barclays Pavilion will be open for an eve-of-match reception open to all supporters, with the chance to have a pint, enjoy some free nibbles and pick up your tickets. Tickets will then be on sale on the gate from 12noon on Saturday.
If weather conditions permit we hope to be able to allow kids to come onto the pitch, at half-time only. Please listen for announcements. But it is forbidden to climb trees.
Supporters are reminded that no food or drink may be brought into the ground, and also that admittance to the clubhouse will be restricted immediately after the game to members and those sponsors and visiting supporters with the appropriate wristbands. This is a necessary measure to enable the club to keep within the capacity imposed by the Fire Service.
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Ponty 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, including plenty of Welsh-related content, 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
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm
The British & Irish Cup this weekend
Ulster A v Bridgend, Pl1, 14:30
Cardiff v Bristol, Pl1, 14:30
Bedwas v Bedford, Pl2, 14:30
Stirling County v Neath, Pl2, 15:00
Swansea v Dundee High, Pl3, 14:30
Newport v Connacht A, Pl4, 14:30
Newcastle v Cross Keys, Pl4, 15:00
Jersey v Pontypridd, Pl5, 15:00
Leinster A v Leeds Carnegie, Pl5, 19:00
Gala v London Scottish, Pl6, 14:30
Moseley v Llanelli, Pl6, 15:00
Abveravon v Rotherham, Pl7, 14:30
Plymouth Albion v Munster A, Pl7, 15:00
Doncaster v Melrose, Pl8, 14:30
Llandovery v Nottingham, Pl8, 15:00
Sunday - Cornish Pirates v Carmarthen Quins, Pl3, 15:00
Well done to all the veteran players who survived the Barclays Super 10's tournament last weekend, having a damned good time in the process, and to the combined 'Richmond Air Force' team for winning it, just pipping St Agnes in the final.
This weekend there are two curtain-raisers in Jersey on Saturday. LQ Lydian Lions play St Jacques of Guernsey in a Hampshire Cup game at 11.30 at LQ, while at the same time the JRA game sees Jersey Athletic take on Banks at their Grainville home.
Quote of the week: Tom David talking about fellow Pontypridd legend Bob Penberthy: "Bob taught me a lot - mainly how to drink! He broke my nose three times and we were playing for the same team. If it wasn't for him, I'd have kept my film star looks."
Enjoy your weekend's rugby