Preview to London Scottish (H) 19.4.1417/04/2014
Easter tour stories: Groundhogs, Gordon and Gavin Hastings
The penultimate weekend of the Greene King IPA Championship season is a Groundhog occasion for Jersey. Sitting in 11th place in the table, with a narrow lead over the side beneath them, the Islanders know that failure to win could see them slip into the drop zone. Squeaky bottoms all round, as Jersey supporters chew their nails with a fervour not seen since Gordon Brown's onychophagia was at its height.
The parallels with this time last year aren't exact - 12 months
ago, relegation rivals Doncaster were the visitors to St Peter,
this season it is steady-Eddie, mid-table, London Scottish, who
have already established a solid fifth place finish regardless of
remaining results. A decent effort by the Exiles - up three places
on last season, which was in itself a three-rung improvement on
their debut Championship effort, 11th in 2011/12.
So the Scots have nothing to play for, set for an old-school Easter Tour with compulsory left-handed drinking, fancy dress, bans on sleeping or eating (or both) and glasses of port at half-time? Well, it's a tempting theory, but it's about as likely to happen as Jersey to finish a season in mid-table (2001-02 was the last occasion - fifth in London 3SW). The Exiles' full-time professional squad may be looking to enjoy their tour, but their intention will be to mark the trip with a win, finishing off the season with style (just in case Bristol prove too strong for them on the final day of the season). Not to mention their status as the second tightest defence in the division (conceding 35 tries, to 32 by London Welsh).
Jersey have under-delivered in their last three games since an impressive away success against Plymouth. Some supporters were disappointed to hear that Ealing had kept the relegation battle alive with a narrow (about the width of a post) win over Nottingham last weekend; but others would rather the debate was settled by their team winning, something an extremely motivated squad will be looking to achieve at St Peter this weekend. They'll take the field a few minutes before the early kick-off of 2pm, and like the whole season so far, it's likely to be an exciting ride.
News from the Jersey Camp?
The Jersey squad will be announced on Friday at 12noon.
This season's first encounter took place at the Richmond Athletic Ground in November (pictured below). Jersey took the lead through Niall O'Connor's penalty, but tries from PJ Gidlow and Mark Bright put the Exiles 12-3 up at the break and there was to be no second-half comeback for the visitors, who conceded further tries from Bright - his second - and Miles Mantella. This duo have been hot stuff this season, with 16 league tries each to top the Championship scoring charts along with Bristol's George Watkins (they have 16-apiece). Anyway, the match finished Scottish 29 Jersey 3, and the full report's HERE
In early March 2013 on a sunny afternoon at the RAG, Jersey
trailed 14-12 at the break after tries by Ed Dawson and Max
Stelling answered one by Adam Kwasnicki, plus three James Love
Tries by Charlie Clare and Guy Thompson in the third quarter helped reduce the arrears to 27-26, but Miles Mantella supplemented his earlier try with a second, and Mark Bright took the hosts out of sight, helped by eight successful kicks by Love. Jersey did win the try count 4-5 after a late Richard Barrington try, but it finished 41-33. Full report HERE
Jersey hosted the Exiles on the final weekend of October 2012, and built up a 13-3 lead at half-time thanks to a Guy Thompson try (captured below by Sue Trower) and eight points from the boot of Booj. Things got even better for the home side when James Copsey scored one of the best tries of the season, his finishing skill matching fine approach play from team-mates.
A 17-point margin was surely too much for the visitors? Well, in
the end it was, but not before Scottish had stormed back with tries
in the 52nd (a PT) and 75th minute. The second score, by Jim
Thompson, gave just enough time for a winning, or tying score, but
Jersey held on. More details about the game are available HERE.
London Scottish in 2013/14
The Exiles suffered a blow in the days leading up to their opening league match when Director of Rugby Simon Amor was snapped up as the new England Sevens supremo.
The new man in charge was ex-Forwards Coach James Buckland, the 32-year-old former Leicester hooker (pictured below) who played in the 2007 Heineken Cup final and subsequently saw out his playing career with Wasps and London Irish.
Before he left, Amor has overseen a summer of transfer activity.
His signings included second row David Lyons from Cornish Pirates,
fly-half Lee Millar from Gala and no fewer than four Rotherham
Titans: prop Jamie Kilbane, hooker Ted Stagg and wingers Peter
Homan and Mike Doneghan.
The new faces joined some experienced campaigners, such as hooker Adam Kwasnicki, lock Alex Karonias, ultility back Ollie Grove and back row men Mark Bright - the club captain - and Lewis Calder - son of Jim and nephew of Finlay.
The season opened with a 13-44 win against Ealing in the London double-header, and the Exiles gave Bristol a fright at the Mem before losing 31-18.
A brace of league victories over Nottingham and Plymouth then followed, but after that fortunes dipped, with Rotherham edging a tight affair at the RAG (23-24) and then Cornish Pirates claiming a Friday night home win by 16-8.
Leeds Carnegie were the visitors to the Athletic Ground in mid-November in a game which saw Scottish record a first ever Championship win over the Yorkshiremen, by 26-15.
The most eye-catching result of the season came in a live Sky Sports game before Christmas, when Scottish defeated Exile rivals London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium to move up to second place in the Championship.
They failed to back this up on New Year's Day, losing 21-13 to Bedford at Goldington Road and more angst was to follow, this time in the B&I Cup.
It has been an up and down league campaign since then with home wins against Cornish Pirates, Plymouth Albion, Bedford and Ealing, plus away at Moseley, sandwiched in between away defeats at Nottingham Rugby, Rotherham Titans and Leeds Carnegie, and a home loss to London Welsh.
History of London Scottish FC
Like many fine institutions, London Scottish FC was formed in a
pub, namely Mackay's Tavern in the City of London on April 10th
1878. The club adopted the colours they still wear to this day,
albeit with fewer sponsors' logos, and in the first season were
captained by their Chairman, Begbie Gibson.
The first season featured 15 matches, and three of the opposing clubs are still in existence - Wasps, Twickenham and Guy's Hospital. Bill MacLagan captained the club in the 1880s for five seasons and was the first player to win a cap for Scotland.
The club continued to thrive adding respected opponents like Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Harlequins to the fixture list and after a short period at Lee and then Brondesbury, moved to Old Deer Park in Richmond as tenants of Richmond Cricket Club and then in 1894 to their present ground the Richmond Athletic Ground, which they share with Richmond Football Club.
The club prospered, establishing an excellent playing reputation and attracting many fine players who represented their country, some of whom went onto play for the British Lions. In fact since the club was formed, this heritage has produced in the region of 220 Scottish Internationals and the same number of Lions captains as Leicester Tigers with four (MacLagan, David Bedell-Sivright in 1903/4, Mike Campbell-Lamerton in 1966 and Gavin Hastings (below) in 1993).
Other Scottish internationals worthy of mention include a
proliferation of back-row men - Mike Biggar, Rob Wainwright, Derek
White and Ian Smith - as well as Paul Burnell, Alastair McHarg,
Allan Lawson and Kenny Logan. Logan scored the last try of his
competitive career for Scottish in December 2005 in a fiery
encounter against Richmond, won 27-25 by the landlords.
The club began the league era in 1987 at level two, and by 1998 were a fully-professional unit playing in the Premiership. However this was also the season that the professional club went into administration, necessitating a year out while the original club was reformed and placed into Herts/ Middlesex Division One (level nine) in 2000.
Four successive promotions kick-started the revival, and since then Scottish have been promoted on three further occasions to return to their original status when the leagues began 25 years previously. An eventful journey, with the most extraordinary episode being the last-minute interception try that secured promotion from National One at Barking's expense. Three years later the incident is still on Youtube, if you missed it, and Barking have just exited the National Leagues thanks to a third successive relegation.
In their first season in the Championship, the Scots survived on the final day when they got the result they needed at the expense of opponents Esher. But last season, after a sluggish start, they eventually finished eighth
Following the Game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v London Scottish 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 - the local paper will publish a Good Friday edition, and full match coverage on Monday*
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match preview on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon
• 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 (subject to Bank Holiday scheduling - could be Tuesday)
The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend
The quartet of play-off teams have now been confirmed, and they will play each other in two pairs this weekend, both live on Sky. The winner of Friday's game at the Mem is likely to finish top of the table, setting up a play-off semi-final in which they will probably take on the team which loses the Saturday evening Yorkshire derby. This latter match takes place at Abbeydale in Sheffield due to 'complications' with Rotherham's Clifton Lane home, which has staged its final rugby match for the season, and is set to switch into cricket mode for the summer.
Good Friday's second game will see Nottingham trying to snap a poor run of just one win in 13 league games, tho' the Green-and-Whites have also managed a draw and 10 bonus points during this period to keep themselves away from the relegation trapdoor, although another couple of points are required against Moseley to make sure.
On Saturday Bedford host the Pirates in the division's only dead rubber, but there's plenty riding on events at Brickfields, with Ealing seeking to continue recent good form that has delivered 10 points in three games and kept Jersey firmly in their sights.
Friday April 18
Bristol v London Welsh, 19:45 - live on Sky Sports
Nottingham Rugby v Moseley, 20:00
Saturday April 19
Bedford v Cornish Pirates, 15:00
Plymouth Albion v Ealing, 15:00
Rotherham v Leeds, 17:15 - live on Sky Sports
Easter may not be sacred, in rugby terms any longer, with teams in the Premiership and Championship having scheduled games, and many National League sides having fixtures to make up after the wet winter weather.
But everyone knows that this weekend should really be about Easter tour, and there will be at least two touring posses at St Peter on Saturday as part of their tours. LSRG from Holland play Banks on Saturday at Grainville (k-o 11.30am) and Beeches at the same venue on Sunday (2pm), while the Ladies of Darlington will tackle Jersey United Banks Ladies at St Peter on Saturday at 12noon. Also at St Peter on Saturday, Jersey 2 play Guernsey 2 at 11am.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby - deep breaths!