Preview to Bedford (H) 21.09.1319/09/2013
And heeeerrrre's Mikey - Booj is back in
After the shenanigans of '1 Big Rugby Weekend' have died down, the 'regular' league season in the Greene King IPA Championship starts this weekend. One down, 22 to go.
A familiar face is likely to be to the fore as Jersey host last season's play-off finalists Bedford Blues. Michael le Bourgeois (below) moved away from his native Jersey at the end of last season, five years after making his debut for Jersey's 1st XV as a teenager in London Division One (a.k.a level five).
After helping Jersey to Championship survival, 'Booj' opted for
a change of scenery on the mainland rather than seek a new deal at
St Peter, where he had been the first Island-born player to sign a
full-time professional contract.
Saturday's match will involve 43 other players, of course, plus former Siam Cup referee Luke Pearce. Both sides will be desperate to achieve a first win of the new season. Jersey produced two-thirds of a solid display against Plymouth before fading badly to lose 27-41, while Bedford lost out 23-14 to London Welsh. Each side was cruelly deprived of a bonus point in the final minute: the Islanders conceding a break-away try to Albion, while Blues' skipper James Pritchard hit the post with a last-kick conversion.
Bedford brought a sizeable contingent of fans to the Island last September and with the prospect of some decent weather to greet the official start of Autumn, it's hoped this season's visitors will have another good trip, albeit that they may face a tougher contest on the field.
News from the Jersey camp
Morale wasn't high among the Jersey party as they returned from
Exeter via Southampton on Sunday evening. Director of Rugby Ben
Harvey was fuming about his team's poor defence and some
contentious decisions by the officials.
However the players have picked themselves up and will relish the chance to show their true colours on home soil. It remains to be seen whether the same personnel will be used, although one definite absentee will be flanker Latu Makaafi, who sustained a broken jaw last Sunday.
Fly-half Niall O'Connor missed the Albion game after sustaining a late injury, but replacement Aaron Penberthy performed well in the 10 shirt, including six kicks from seven attempts, so that will be an area of particular interest when the Jersey side is announced on Friday morning.
Blues ready to launch 13/14 campaign
Bedford are once again likely to be genuine contenders for the
Greene King IPA Championship and already have plenty of experience
having reached the final four in the past four seasons since the
play-off system was introduced.
Rayer has been busy in the off-season, continuing to develop his squad. Despite the likes of wingers James Stephenson and Josh Bassett heading off to Worcester Warriors and Wasps respectively, while prop Ricky Reeves and hooker Neil Cochrane also headed off to the Premiership, Rayer has brought in a host of talented youngsters as well as an experienced head as well.
As well as the aforementioned Booj, winger Neville Edwards joined Bedford from Rosslyn Park and will be hoping to imitate the success of his friend Stephenson who was propelled into the Premiership following his Blues stint. Edwards arrives with a big reputation for his try scoring abilities and hard-working defensive abilities.
Another former Jersey player was added to Rayer's summer arrivals in front row forward Charlie Clare. The hooker joined Bedford following four years in the Leicester Tigers Academy which incorporated spells at Loughborough Students, Nottingham and, most recently, four months with Jersey, for whom he made his debut in Dublin on his 21st birthday last December.
Two players also make returns to Bedford with seasoned prop Nico Steenkamp re-joining the club following a season with National One side Coventry, and centre-come-winger Corey Hircock who signed on after a stint with Munster.
The partnership with Saracens continues to flourish with a number of youngsters being given the opportunity to shine at Bedford. Sam Stanley has signed full time with the Blues, while mobile lock Tom Jubb and powerful young prop Nick Auterac also join on dual registration agreements. Full-back Ben Ransom, scrum-half Luke Baldwin and hooker Scott Spurling will also spend another season with the Blues.
(Thanks to Blues' Simon Hutchinson for contributing the above section).
Bedford's season to date
Pre-season action started at home against Northampton Saints,
with the Premiership side pulling clear in the second half to
finish 21-45 winners. The game was notable for THIS HIT on Booj by Courtney Lawes. To Mikey's
credit he a) got the ball away as he was pile-driven and b) he was
able to play on after treatment.
Blues then faced a second Premiership side, with a trip to play Saracens at Allianz Park, and ended up beaten 71-12.
Another trip to Allianz Park followed for the opening double-header of the league season. It was a feisty affair, and the combative Darren Fox was sent off for punching Rob Andrew (not the RFU big cheese), who also got a red. [Fox faced a disciplinary hearing this week, where the sending-off was deemed sufficient punishment]. Welsh led 13-0 at the break, and were 23-9 up when Neville Edwards struck for Blues in the final minute before Pritchard's agonising miss.
The final weekend of September saw a large Bedford contingent head to Jersey. They saw their team lead 0-29 soon after the break, bonus point secured, but the result was in doubt as Jersey roared back with tries through Glenn Bryce (captured below by Sue Trower), Nathan Hannay and Ed Dawson. The final score was 19-29 and the report's HERE
In February Jersey played up the famous Goldington Road slope
and did well to trail just 14-9 at the break. Supposedly happier
playing down the slope after half-time, Blues belied this by
running in four second-half tries to seal a 38-21 success, Jersey
scoring late tries by Nicky Griffiths and Guy Thompson. Report HERE
History of Bedford RUFC
A few years after their separate foundations, Bedford Rovers and Bedford Swifts joined forces in 1886 to form Bedford RUFC. Close links between the club and two local schools - Bedford and Bedford Modern - led to the choice the dark and light blue strip, reflecting further links between the schools and the Oxbridge universities. This colour scheme exists to this day in both the home and away kits worn by the team, who are nicknamed the Blues, just to keep things tidy.
The club played at Goldington Road virtually from the outset,
hosting some of the leading teams of the era. In 1893/94 they lost
just one game out of 29 and in 1905 hosted the All Blacks - a 41-0
defeat was little disgrace given that the visitors lost just one
match of a lengthy tour.
Fast-forwarding a few years, as one has to given limited space and time, and Bedford were a pre-eminent name in English rugby in the 1960s thanks to the likes of national captains Budge Rogers and David Perry. They won the Sunday Telegraph English-Welsh Rugby Table in 1969/70 and were led by Rogers to an 18-12 victory over Rosslyn Park in the 1975 John Player Cup Final at Twickenham.
When the league era began in 1987 Bedford were at level two, and the club has spent 21 of the ensuing 26 seasons at this level. The exceptions were a one-season foray into Courage Division One in 1989/90, two years below stairs at level three in the mid-90s, and then two years back at the top-flight, then named the Allied Dunbar Premiership, from 1998-2000.
There were two eventful promotion play-offs with Rotherham during this time, the first won on try count-back after a 38-38 draw and the second lost 34-40 and resulting in relegation.
Like many clubs, Bedford have weathered the peaks and troughs of the professional era. In 1996/97 boxing promoter Frank Warren and the company Sports Network invested in the club and helped secure some major signings and promotion to the Premiership. However the club's sale in 1999 to Jefferson Lloyd International was financially catastrophic and at one stage looked likely to involve another sale and the club moving out of Bedford.
Following intervention by the RFU in October 1999 a consortium of Bedford businessmen headed by David Ledsom, Geoff Irvine and David Gunner with assistance from Bedford Borough Council and other professional people, the transfer of the club to Bedford Blues Ltd. was organised.
Several thousand supporters and businesses in the town bought shares and the club is now a thriving one that is a fine example for sustainability in the tough environment of Championship rugby. Geoff Irvine remains a central figure as Chairman, and holds the same status in the umbrella organisation for Championship clubs in their dealings with the RFU.
Director of Rugby Mike Rayer, 48, (pictured above) is in his
ninth season in charge - on the playing side - at Goldington Road.
He won 21 caps at full-back for Wales in the early 90s, scoring
four tries including a brace as a replacement against Scotland in
1994, and played two seasons for Bedford between 1996 and 1998. He
has been awarded a testimonial by the club this season.
Blues are now starting their 14th straight season at level two, making them the 'Fathers' of this league.
Information for supporters was posted HERE during the
week. The club will be open on Friday from 5.30- 7.30pm, and on
Saturday the gates open at 12noon.
There are new arrangements for those travelling by car to St Peter this weekend. Please see the notice on this website on Friday for details and allow extra time for your journey.
Following the Game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey
v Blues through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday from 5.30pm, 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 full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon at 5.10pm
• 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 Greene King IPA Championship this weekend
Plymouth and Cornish Pirates are welcoming Moseley and Leeds
respectively this weekend. I use the words 'welcoming' and
'weekend' loosely, as the games are actually on Friday at
Rotherham and Ealing will lock horns at the same time as Jersey 'n' Bedford.
On Sunday Bristol host London Scottish at the start of their final season at The Memorial Stadium (k-o 3pm) while there is also a live Sky game with Nottingham hosting London Welsh at 3.15pm.
An exciting new rugby publication launches this weekend, namely the Jersey RFC match-day programme.
This glossy tome has been completely relaunched, with profiles
on home and away players, stats, features, pictures, columns by key
figures and much more besides. It has 44 pages, and costs just £2,
so give it a go!
Enjoy your weekend's rugby