Preview to Rotherham (H)24/01/2013
Home comforts... but for which
Looking after visitors is an important part of the Jersey RFC ethos, which is why every effort is being made to lay on some familiar surroundings for Rotherham Titans when they come calling this weekend.
On arrival at St Peter our guests will encounter a largely open
and often wind-swept arena, a narrow pitch, a fearsome pack of
forwards and a diminutive, highly-focused Coach. There's no place
Of course the above picture, incorporating some of the stereotypical labels that teams are tagged with and find hard to shake off, is not only misleading, but also out-of-date. The Titans' own diminutive Coach, the scary South African Andre Bester, left the club in October and was replaced the following month by the larger frame of Alex Codling.
One plus point for Codling was that, as well as inheriting a strong squad with a good work ethic, he also found a side in a relatively comfortable mid-table position. The Titans remain comfortable, well clear of any relegation worries and with minimal expectations about achieving the top four finish that Bester had bullishly described as a certainty. Codling has already been able to plan ahead for 2013/14, looking to get several of his key squad members signed up for next season.
While he also has one eye on next season, Codling's former Richmond team-mate, Ben Harvey, has the task of steering Jersey away from the lower reaches of the Championship table. But at least the Island side will have home advantage - a significant factor given that three of the last four league encounters at St Peter have been home wins.
The match will offer a chance to see how the visiting team, renowned for having one of the Championship's most formidable packs, match up against a Jersey forward unit who have proved a match, in the scrum department at least for any side thus far. And the 14 players from the teams' respective back divisions shouldn't be forgotten about either - they're likely to have a far greater influence on the outcome than the stereotypes suggest.
News from the Jersey camp
Denied a chance to put his players through their paces in Pontypridd last weekend, Ben Harvey faces some tricky selection calls.
With a largely fit squad at his disposal, the question marks include hooker - Charlie Clare or Dave Felton - the back row, with loan signing Joe Buckle (above) set for his debut, and fly-half - Ross Broadfoot or Mike Le Bourgeois.
Former Titan Talite 'Vee' Vaioleti has been out of action with a dislocated shoulder since October, but is now close to a return to action along with loose-head prop Myles Landick, who has been kept busy this week in his day-job as the club's Groundsman.
Ben Harvey hands a debut to loan signing Joe Buckle in the back row; this is the only change to the forwards from Jersey's last league encounter against Moseley, with Graham Bell the man replaced.
Jersey's back-line sees three changes from the Moseley trip - Tom Cooper, a replacement that day, starts at centre, Ashley Maggs is on the wing and Barry Davies is chosen at full-back.
"Our pitch remains pretty wet, and that means the break-down and
set piece areas are likely to be crucial, with a premium on good
defence," Harvey said. "I've gone with a 'horses for courses'
selection to reflect the sort of game I'm expecting."
Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and jersey.com
1 Sean McCarthy
2 Dave Felton
3 Jon Brennan
4 Nathan Hannay
5 Dave Markham
6 Kingsley Lang
7 Joe Buckle
8 Guy Thompson
9 Nicky Griffiths
10 Mike Le Bourgeois
11 Ed Dawson
12 Tom Cooper
13 Dai Bishop (capt)
14 Ashley Maggs
15 Barry Davies
16 Richard Barrington
17 Charlie Clare
18 James Gethings
19 Rob Anderson
20 Eoghan Nihill
21 Dave McCormack
22 Ross Broadfoot
Jersey travelled to Clifton Lane on a sunny late summer Saturday in September, and were rocked in the first half as tries by Eamonn Sheridan, Carl Kirwan, Alex Rieder and Pale Nonu helped Titans to a 34-10 interval lead. Dai Bishop's interception was Jersey's only try.
The second half was an improvement, in fact Jersey 'won' it 21-20 and in the process picked up their first Championship point of the season, for scoring four tries following second-half efforts from Nathan Hannay (pictured above by Sue T), Glenn Bryce, and another Bishop effort following a length-of-the-field move. Roth scored further tries through Garry Law and Michael Doneghan, with Law adding 24 points with a flawless 10-from-10 kicking record.
A full report on the game, which finished 54-31, can be found here.
Titans in 2012/13
Like so many clubs in the Championship, there were considerable changes of personnel at Clifton Lane over the summer.
The range of backs available in the squad includes two returning players, full-back Mike Whitehead and centre Lee Blackett (both played for Roth in their most recent Premiership campaign), a pair of signings from Ireland in the shape of Eamonn Sheridan (Leinster, wing) and James McKinney (Ulster, fly-half), the prodigious goal-kicking of Gary Law (250 points last season) and powerhouse Kiwi centre Pale Nonu. Other summer signings were the Mulchrone brothers, Charlie and Fergus, from Macclesfield.
In the forwards, watch out for flanker Alex Rieder and prop Gareth Denman, new signings from Leeds, and another prop, ex-Moseley man Marshall Gadd, who was one of the players rumoured to be talking to Jersey over the summer.
The competitive part of the season with an opening day defeat at London Scottish, followed by an extraordinary home opener at Clifton Lane. Titans led 18-13 at the break but a third-quarter burst from Blues saw them take a seemingly unassailable 35-24 lead. Blackett narrowed the deficit with a try, Blues added a penalty but then the home side scored a last-gasp penalty try to share a 'bonus point draw' at 38 points apiece.
One of Roth's most impressive results came in September at Meadow Lane, home of Nottingham. It was 9-9 after an hour, but a penalty try helped the visitors break the deadlock and with eight points from McKinney's boot and a late try by Sheridan, Roth were away and clear at 27-9 before the hosts claimed a last minute consolation to narrow the gap to 27-16.
After the home win against Jersey, Roth went into the first B&I 'window' on the back of a 15-3 defeat at Plymouth and more evidence of their ability to defeat play-off contenders, a 23-16 victory over Bristol at Clifton Lane.
The B&I began well for Roth with a win in Wales against Aberavon and the steam-rollering of Plymouth by 59-26 at home, watched by some of the Jersey party en route to the Cup tie with Leeds. Pool 7 was decided in the back-to-back clashes with Munster in December, but although Titans gained a heroic 9-9 draw in the away leg, a 21-36 home defeat was crucial in the Irish side's eventual qualification.
In the league, Roth suffered convincing defeats on the road at Newcastle and Pirates, plus a 13-24 home defeat by Leeds, but did manage victories over Doncaster (H) and Moseley (A). The year finished with a Boxing Day match at Bedford, with a creditable bonus point in a 22-16 defeat.
Nottingham gained a measure of revenge for their earlier defeat at Titan hands with a 32-12 win at Clifton Lane at the start of January, while the most recent outing saw Roth win 3-21 at Plymouth in the B&I. The final Cup match against Aberavon was postponed last weekend due to snow.
For the trip to Jersey, former Jersey players Joe Ellyatt and Latu Makaafi are both in the starting line-up. Returning from injury are Lee Blackett, who comes in at outside centre and Eamonn Sheridan who will start on the wing. In the pack Marshall Gadd and Ted Stagg come into the front row, Makaafi returns at blind side flanker, whilst Alex Rieder gets the nod for the number 8 shirt.
Previewing the challenge ahead (courtesy of the Roth website), Titans' Alex Codling said, "All games are tough in this division and away games particularly so. Jersey will be desperate for the points, they've had a good run of results at home recently and they will fancy their chances. But we have been playing well of late also.
"We have been frustrated with the weather for the last couple of weeks and that's restricted us in terms of how much training we have done. In an ideal world we would have liked to have had a full week's normal preparation, but that's not been possible due to the weather.
"However, we can't do anything about that, we've managed the situation as best as we could and we've just got to get on with things. We done some indoor work at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and that's been beneficial, although we would have preferred to have done some contact work.
"Jersey has gone through a natural cycle coming into the league, very similar to London Scottish last year and when you're new to the Championship it takes time to adapt and they've done that very well.
"One of Jersey's major forces is their scrum, but I wouldn't say that's their only force and I think we would be doing them a disservice if we said it was. But it is an area of strength for them as it for us. We are looking forward to the battle and it's a great opportunity for the boys to build on the last few weeks.
"If the boys play to their potential, then I would back them against any team in the division on their day. So, it's a case of us being as prepared as possible for the challenge and it's a challenge we are looking forward to."
Titans: 15 Fergus
Mulchrone, 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Lee Blackett, 12 Pale Nonu, 11
Eamonn Sheridan, 10 Garry Law (Capt.), 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1
Marshall Gadd, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan
Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Joe Ellyatt, 8 Alex Rieder.
Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Ross Davies, 19 Toby Freeman, 20 Rory Pitman, 21 Joel Gill, 22 James McKinney.
Titans, Tongans and other connections
Tongan flanker Latu Makaafi will face his former club. Latu was one of the first two professional players in Jersey, signing in August 2006 alongside Kern Yates (pictured below with Director of Rugby Dai Burton) and playing for the Islanders for two years, including the promotion winning campaign of 2007/08.
Since leaving Jersey he has played for Hull, Wharfedale and Doncaster before coming to Clifton Lane last summer. He suffered a broken collarbone in the game against Jersey but returned to action in December.
Fellow Tongan, and holder of two international caps for his
country, Talite 'Vee' Vaioleti (above), is back in Jersey having
represented the Island side between 2008-10. He then played for
Wharfedale before signing for Rotherham in summer 2011. It was a
difficult season for 'Vee', including a broken leg in September
2011 which kept him out of action for four months. Sadly he has now
been out for a similar proportion of Jersey's 2012/13 campaign with
a dislocated shoulder.
'Vee' was the second former Titan in the Jersey squad this season, however winger Ed Tellwright was released at the end of December at the end of a three-month contract, during which time he played seven games for Jersey.
Titans have a second 'old boy' in their ranks too - former
Victoria College pupil Joe Ellyatt (above) played alongside Latu
for Jersey in 2007/08 before moving onto university in Bath and
becoming a member of the Bath Academy. He graduated last summer,
trialled with Rotherham and then picked up a full-time contract at
the start of October, and has since made 10 appearances.
Joe, 22, is a contemporary of members of the Jersey squad such as Myles Landick, Dave Felton, Mike Le Bourgeois and Ed Dawson, and will be eager to impressive on his native Island. Parents Trish and Steve will be in the crowd, and it looks set to be a busy weekend's trading at Steve's pub, The Trafalgar in St Aubin.
Both Ben Harvey and Alex Codling racked up plenty of different clubs in their playing careers (semi-reliable web stats show Codling may have a 12-7 'lead' in this area). The pair overlapped for two years at Richmond from 1996-98, two of the lesser lights in an all-star squad that also included the likes of Ben Clarke, Brian Moore, Adrian Davies, the Quinnell brothers and Agustin Pichot.
Second-row Codling did end up winning an England cap in 2002, when he made his debut in a 26-18 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires. He was one of five England players to win a first cap that day. Pretty good result you'd have thought? Well, maybe it was something in the Malbec that night, but their subsequent international records were:
Codling, Michael Horak and Geoff Appleford: no further
Ben Johnston: one further cap
Phil Christophers: two further caps.
Codling, now 39, switched to coaching in the mid noughties, firstly with Ebbw Vale, then London Welsh and Cardiff RFC. He was in charge at Barking when the unsung East Londoners came within seconds of winning the National One title and being promoted to the Championship, but when this honour was snatched by London Scottish, so was Codling, who the Exiles recruited as Forwards Coach. He held this position until shortly before being recruited by Rotherham in November.
History of Rotherham
Rotherham and local rivals Doncaster are the two clubs in the Championship who actually had a lower ranking than Jersey when the RFU leagues came in 25 years ago. Jersey began the new era in London Three South-West, level seven, while Rotherham were in North East Division One, one rung down the ladder.
The Yorkshiremen's rise was earlier and even steeper than Jersey's recent ascent - no fewer than seven promotions in 13 seasons saw Rotherham reach the Premiership in 2000. This included three successive promotions to go from level five to level two (the same jump Jersey have just made) between 1993 and 1996.
It's a tough call whether it was harder for Rotherham to reach the Premiership or to stay there. First of all the club missed automatic promotion in 1998/99 by a slither of points difference to Bristol, and then lost a two-legged play-off with Bedford on try count-back after a 38-38 aggregate scoreline (not the last time the teams took part in a 76-point thriller). 12 months later, it was another play-off, again versus Bedford, with Roth triumphant 40-34 over the two games.
Sadly it was straight back down from the Prem after just two wins, and then a denial of promotion the following season in the first example of ring-fencing at the top level. Roth overcame this hurdle with promotion in 2002/03 and some robust legal challenging, and played their most recent Premiership rugby at Millmoor, then home of Rotherham United, in 2003/04.
Once again it proved a task too far to stay at the top level and Roth have since been more settled at level two, a.k.a. The Championship, in recent years. Their best finish was second spot in 2006/07 while in 2009/10 it was necessary to contest the relegation play-offs. Last season the club finished seventh in the league but were then last of the four clubs in Pool B of the play-offs.
Rotherham's original history dates back to the club's formation in 1923 by a number of locals who had been introduced to the game at grammar or private schools. The early years were nomadic, until Clifton Lane was secured in the late 1930s.
After reformation in 1946, the club struggled both on and off the field until the 1960s when a greater flow of players from local schools began.
Well-known players with Rotherham connections include Moseley Head Coach and 70-times Ireland cap Kevin Maggs, Spanish wing Oriol Ripol, Irish scrum-half Guy Easterby, Henry Paul, John Bentley and Dave Scully. 14-times-capped Samoan Mike Umaga played 123 times for Roth, later becoming Player-Coach. Lock John Dudley played throughout the rise to the Premiership, his final appearance coming in September 2000 against a Newcastle squad containing the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Gary Armstrong, George Graham, Liam Botham, Inga Tuigamala and Ross Beattie.
Andre Bester first became Head Coach and Chief Executive in 2005/06. He left in 2007 and took over coaching duties at Birmingham & Solihull in 2007/08, shortly after the departure of Ben Harvey from his final position before moving to Jersey. Bester was back at the (coaching) helm at Clifton Lane in 2010 prior to departing again in October 2012.
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. 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.
Recent wet weather means parking will be once again be available on the Airport Field on Avenue de la Commune (that's the main route from the airport to Red Houses). Access is opposite the two petrol stations.?A courtesy shuttle bus service will operate between the Airport Field car park and the club, starting at 12noon (ideal for lunchers ahead of their 12.30pm meal) and running until 5.45pm.??Spectators are urged to allow extra time to access the car park or consider other means of transport such as taxis, a lift, or the bus (services #9 and #15).
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Rotherham v Jersey 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
* 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
In symmetrical fashion, the games divide neatly into top six and bottom six. Or they did until Newcastle's home match with Cornish Pirates was called off due to the weather. Doncaster will inspect on Friday at 11am.
Bristol and Leeds might be competing for a single play-off spot, so expect a suitably fierce encounter at the Memorial, while Plymouth Head Coach Nat Saumi has described his team's clash with Moseley as a cup final, mindful no doubt of Albion's recent poor form.
The Jersey camp will be able to check out their next two opponents on live TV when Sky broadcast the match between Nottingham and Bedford from Meadow Lane. The pitch is covered and at the time of writing there was optimism about the match going ahead.
v Pirates (OFF), Bristol v Leeds, Doncaster v London Scottish (STOP
PRESS - THAT'S OFF TOO!)
Saturday: Plymouth v Moseley
Sunday: Nottingham v Bedford
When a Pontypridd supporter asked on the club forum about advice for the away game at Llanelli, some of his fellow supporters couldn't resist poking some fun at their rivals, with references to the low attendances at Parc-y-Scarlets for Llanelli RFC games.
One prankster even claimed to be writing on behalf of Llanelli, saying "Thanks for coming. What time can you get here? I'll arrange with the ref and players to kick off when you're ready. ok." But irony/ comedy/ sarcasm is wasted on some people, with the original poster coming back and saying : "Thanks that's very kind of you, but no need to delay the match, I will be there on time."
Other rugby action involving Jersey sides this weekend sees Jersey Athletic play Beeches at LQ at 11.30am on Saturday. On Sunday HMP La Moye take on a combined St Helier/ Les Quennevais side in a friendly at 12noon at LQ. Jersey Colts are away at Trojans on the same day.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby