Preview to Rotherham (A) 02.11.13


T'wearlies, Tom Cruse and journalistic licence

Among the pleasures of home-and-away exchanges with Rotherham last season was the chance to learn some local phraseology. I particularly liked the term for the OAP generation, who tend to be up with the lark and enjoy free bus travel after 9.30am. They are known as "t'wearlies", as in: "Morning Albert, it's only 20 past, I can't let you on - you're t'wearly."

The Titans have stormed out of the blocks in 2013/14, winning four of their five league games and only narrowly losing the other, a five point defeat to London Welsh in which the Yorkshiremen took two bonus points. They are playing glorious running rugby and have scored 25 tries, the most of any Championship side. All is set fair... but have they gone t'wearly?

Roth Logo

Prior to Jersey's arrival at Level Two, the perception of the Titans was as a forward-dominated side who sought to out-muscle opposition teams, particularly in the (allegedly) narrow confines of Clifton Lane, where the pitch is hemmed in by a grandstand (otherwise known as 'the Shed') on one side and a cricket square on the other.

The Titans, were martialled, some would say beasted, by the diminutive but scary South African Andre Bester, but even before Bester departed in October a different style of play was evident, not least in a free-flowing contest against Jersey in September.

Bester's replacement, Alex Codling, was in post for just six months, leaving at the end of the season and being replaced by one of his players, Lee Blackett.

Jersey will be looking to make amends for an ordinary display at home to Plymouth Albion last Saturday that took the gloss off an otherwise half-decent start to the season. A tough challenge awaits in the game at Clifton Lane, which will be a daylight affair starting at 2pm.

News from the Jersey camp

The Jersey squad will be confirmed at around 12noon on Friday. That's the news...

Rotherham in 2013/14

The changes of personnel at Clifton Lane this summer were considerable with 22 new signings for the club. Among those who departed were Jerseyman Joe Ellyatt, now plying his trade in France, and two who were signed for Jersey by Ben Harvey - scrum-half Jimmy Williams and returning flanker Latu Makaafi. Williams should feature in Jersey's squad this weekend but Makaafi is still out as he recovers from a broken jaw.

Among the new faces were fly-half Dallan Murphy from Queensland Reds, the Argentine centre Juan Pablo Socino, the return of number 8 Alfie To'oala and fellow back row man Ed Williamson, who also coaches the forwards. Props were sourced from an eclectic range of sources such as Portugal (Mike Dias) and Otley (Toby Williams).

Watch out for live-wire scrum-half Charlie Mulchrone, top gun, sorry that should read top try-scorer Tom Cruse, and the prodigious kicking efforts of Socino, who has kicked 94 points and added two tries so far. He landed 13 from 13 in the 79-9 walloping of Ealing.

Beating Ealing followed a 42-24 win over Moseley in the double-header that started the season at nearby Castle Park in Doncaster, and Roth claimed a September double over Mose with a slightly more emphatiic 21-47 win at Billesley Common.

October featured the 27-32 home defeat by Welsh, a dour 12-11 home cup win over Bedford in appalling conditions, and defeat in Connacht in the second round of the B&I. Last weekend Roth faced a tough Frday night at the Athletic Ground in Richmond but edged an exciting contest 23-24, Cruse scoring twice.

Head-to-head in 12/13

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, 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.

Latu NG

The return match may not have been a thing of beauty, but there was no shortage of tension at St Peter. It was a physical encounter, summed up by another physical tackle by Makaafi on his new team-mate Nicky Griffiths (pic by Sue Trower).

Roth officials weren't delighted when the referee sanctioned a move to Jersey's second pitch after the ongoing heavy rain left the main arena unplayable. Ironically it was bright and sunny by the time Saturday afternoon arrived.

The last minute had it all, with a fight breaking out in centre-field involving some Roth players, Jersey's Barry Davies and an invasion from the sin-bin by one of his colleagues. Titans had been attacking, looking for a winning try, and were initially given a penalty that could either have been kicked for a draw, or run for victory, but then play was called back to half-way, and the game was up.

Charlie Mulchrone and Guy Thompson scored the game's two tries. Roth had the twin consolations of a losing BP and being one of the only packs all season to give Jersey's talismanic tight-head Jon Brennan any difficulty - 'the Bear' was yellow-carded in the first half. See HERE for a full report.

History of Rotherham RUFC

Rotherham and local rivals Doncaster actually had a lower ranking than Jersey when the RFU leagues came in 26 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 recently 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, before leaving in October 2012, and being replaced by Alex Codling.


Rotherham finished 2012/13 in seventh place in the table, and over the summer confirmed Lee Blackett (above) as the new Head Coach. Blackett, 30, spent three seasons with the club a decade ago, making his debut in a Zurich Premiership game against Bath at Millmoor in January 2004. He moved across Yorkshire to Leeds in 2006 but returned to Roth as a player in summer 2012.

Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Roth v Jersey 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, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report 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

The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend

The half-dozen games are neatly split, with two per day. Ealing have had a rough start to the season, but all this could be forgotten if they can defeat Moseley at home and move off the bottom of the table. Pirates hope to conclude their unsuccessful attempt at Friday night rugby (season tickets down 21% - ouch) with success on the pitch against London Scottish.

Saturday's other game sees Plymouth host Bristol, while Sunday features two enticing match-ups: Leeds host London Welsh with both sides among the early pace-setters, while two of last season's top three, Nottingham and Bedford, meet at Meadow Lane having won just one each of their five games to date.

And finally

The award for journalistic licence this week must surely go to Brian Dick of the Coventry Telegraph, who used Mike Phillips' sacking by Bayonne as the trigger for a story linking the Welsh scrum-half with Coventry. Phillips apparently knows Player-Coach Scott Morgan, as well as former Jersey full-back Barry Davies, so therefore it was only natural that he'd want to keep in shape in between his Wales duties in November and February by turning out in National One. Watch this space (you might have to watch it for a while).

On Saturday Jersey Athletic play their second home league match in the Zoo Sports Shield, with Worthing the visitors for a 12noon KO, followed by lunch and England v Australia on the big screen. The following day, Banks play Beeches and Jersey 2nds take on the Wanderers/Banks Vets XV, both in the Doug Tranter Cup, and Jersey Colts are away at old rivals Havant.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!

Tom Innes

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