Preview to Ulster Ravens (H) 11.01.14


Good Vibrations, Madagascar and Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

Good vibes have been coursing through Jersey's rugby veins since it was announced that new Head Coach Harvey Biljon was heading across the Channel from Cornwall.

The new man arrived last Sunday and has had a busy week as he starts work with the players and coaching team. On Thursday night he addressed a group of members in the clubhouse, outlining what he had learned so far and his key priorities. The feedback was good, and there was also warm applause for Steve Boden's work during his time in interim charge.

Boden is still in charge of coaching and selection this week while Biljon reviews structures, with the new broom set to take the reins fully on Monday week in the build-up to the crucial league match with Rotherham at St Peter on January 25th.

Meanwhile it's back to the British & Irish Cup. Sadly Jersey have been effectively eliminated from the competition this season, barring the sort of freak sequence of results that would see Madagascar lift the World Cup in 2015 (yes they are still in it).

But the match is one the home side will be very keen to win, having tasted success just once since seeing off Ayr in the first round of the B&I in October. Ulster Ravens won narrowly on home soil in Belfast in October and Jersey have a score to settle. There's a new Head Coach to impress, a match to be won, a special ticket offer for members and season ticket holder (see HERE for details) and a positive zeitgeist to tap into. Let's go to work...

News from the Jersey Camp

Boden has selected the Jersey squad for this weekend, and at least the Forwards Coach has the luxury of a relatively full complement of players, with not too many injuries. Ed Dawson is working hard to return to fitness after an ankle injury, Aaron Penberthy had the protective boot removed from his broken leg this week, leaving only Tom Cooper on the long-term list.

The Islanders will be boosted by an encouraging display against Championship front-runners London Welsh last weekend. The match finished 26-33, including a maiden try for full-back Jack Burroughs (pictured, thanks to Sue Trower, below).

Borroughs Try

The Jersey squad will be added to this preview at around 11.30am on Friday. Here it is:

Backs (15-9)
Jack Burroughs
Grant Pointer
Drew Locke
David Bishop
Mark Foster
Niall O'Connor
Jimmy Williams

Forwards (1-8)
Sean McCarthy
Elvis Taione
David Young
Dave Markham
Alex Rae (capt)
Latu Makaafi
Joe Buckle
Fred Silcock

David Felton, Nick Selway, James Voss, Rob Anderson, Nicky Griffiths, Joel Dudley, James Copsey.

Ulster Ravens in the B&I this season

The men from 'Norn Iron', started this season's B&I Cup campaign with defeat to Cornish Pirates, who grabbed a late try bonus point in defeating their Irish visitors 34-17.

The following weekend Jersey were the visitors to Ravenhill, and took an early lead on a wet, breezy night thanks to an early try by Alex Rae. The hosts fought back to lead 11-5 at the break, and then 21-5 early in the second half, but Jersey rallied with two penalty tries and had the minor consolation of a losing bonus point, with the final score 24-19. The match report is HERE.

Back-to-back ties with Ayr in December saw the Scots winning the first game 41-22 at Millbrae, but then the Ulstermen achieved an equally emphatic 38-21 home victory.

The Ravens' squad is made up of surplus members of the senior squad, players from the Ulster Academy - young stars considered to have the potential to earn international recognition later in their careers - and some of the top local players in the all-Irish AIB League.

A try scorer against Jersey was David McIlwaine, who returned to Ulster this season after a spell at Bristol, while the kicks were taken by former Rotherham fly-half James McKinney, who faced Jersey at St Peter in January 2013 and has picked up several caps for the Ulster senior team this season.

Ulster's forwards could include prop Paddy McAllister, back in action after a season out recovering from a knee injury, captain Lewis Stevenson in the second row, and some real talent in the back row - Conor Joyce played in the Under 20 World Cup for Ireland last summer, and Frankie Taggart, a product of Whitgift School in South London who played for Harlequins before moving to the country for whom he qualifies for on ancestral links.

Ulster Ravens in B&I History

The Ravens have reached the KO stages twice in the four-year history of the B&I. In 2009/10 the Ulster side won four out of five group games, but then lost 27-3 away at Munster in the QF.

2010/11 was a season to forget for the Ulstermen, losing four out of five group games, but the following year they won all four group games. This led to another meeting with old foes Munster - this time the game was at home, but the result was the same, the southerners winning 9-20.

In 2012/13, Pool 1 of the B&I hinged on the two matches between Bristol and the Ravens. Bristol won 34-28 at the Memorial Stadium, and completed the double with an 8-12 away triumph that clinched top spot and a QF place.

Home patch

Ulster's home ground is Ravenhill, which opened in 1923 and is currently undergoing a £14.7million refurbishment. Eventually it will hold 18,000; the capacity is currently 14,000, which has been achieved several times already this season, most recently for last night's Heineken Cup tie against Montpellier. The trademark chant for the home fans is Stand Up for the Ulster Men (SUFTUM for short).

History of Ulster Rugby

Ulster Logo

In the amateur Rugby Union era, Ulster enjoyed considerable success, regularly taking on international sides from the all over the world.

In the early 1980's a number of Ulster players such as Colin Patterson, David Irwin, Trevor Ringland and Keith Crossan were selected for the Ireland squad which went on to win the Triple Crown in 1982 and 1985. In 1984 they defeated Australia at Ravenhill. Current Ulster Rugby Doctor, David Irwin, captained the side to a famous 15-13 win.

In 1987 eight players were selected to compete with Ireland in the Rugby World Cup where they progressed to the quarter finals.

Ulster lifted the Heineken Cup in January 1999, defeating French side Colomiers, 21-6 in the final at Lansdowne Road. As shown below, David Humphreys and Mark McCall were in charge of hoisting the trophy.

Ulster H Cup

In July 2004, Mark McCall, a member of the 1999 team, took over the reins as Head Coach and in May 2006, Ulster Rugby were crowned Celtic League champions for the first - and so far only - time.

World Cup winning Springboks Johann Muller and Ruan Pienaar joined the province in 2011 and played a key role as Ulster reached the Heineken Cup quarter finals for the first time since 1999, losing 23-13 to Northampton. The following year, Ulster reached the knock-out stages for a second successive season. They beat Munster at Thomond Park in the quarter-final, and then Edinburgh in the semi-final at the Aviva Stadium, but were then beaten by Leinster in the final at Twickenham.

Mark Anscombe became the first New Zealander to coach Ulster in 2012: his first season saw Ulster beat Castres in the Heineken Cup the club's first ever competitive win in France.  Ulster qualified for the quarter-final but lost to a Saracens side coached by Mark McCall. The Province finished top of the RaboDirect PRO12, but lost the final of the competition, again to Leinster, last May.

Famous Son

He may not be the greatest player in Ulster's rugby history - that might be an honour for Wille John McBride - but Willie Anderson has a good claim to be the most notorious. The 27-times capped lock was captaining his country when he led an unprecedented advance on the New Zealand Haka before an international in Dublin (shown below). Some people thought this a disrespectful act, but New Zealand's number 8 Wayne 'Buck' Shelford, the man credited with changing the pre-match ritual from a variation of Morris Dancing (see HERE if you don't believe me) to its current incarnation, came to Jersey in November and spoke with admiration about the way the challenge had been taken up. Either way, these days the IRB insists on a minimum gap between the two sides, which is usually empty apart from a camera crew.

Anderson _haka

Not content with his Haka heroics, Anderson also hit the headlines when he tried to smuggle an Argentine flag out of a government building in Buenos Aires during a trip with the Penguins touring side in 1978. The authorities weren't impressed and he spent three months in jail before being released. Anderson was also the cause of another potential diplomatic incident when he faced French lock Jean Condom in 1985 at Lansdowne Road, and one spectator unfurled a banner saying 'Our Willie's bigger than your Condom.'

Willie Anderson's son TJ played against Jersey at St Peter for Ealing in November.

Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v the Exiles 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 coverage in Saturday's paper (on sale from 7am) and full match coverage on Monday
  • Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
  • Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon just after 5pm
  • 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 B&I this weekend

Don't forget there are eight quarter-final spots and six groups in the competition this season, so two places are available for the runners-up with the best record.

Pool 1 is Leinster's for the taking; the Irish side need just a point from the bizarrely-timed 6pm kick-off in Dublin on Friday night, but pool 2 is a three-horse race with London Welsh having the chance to squeeze ahead of Pontypridd and London Scottish by beating both sides in the next week. Welsh v Ponty is my tie of the round, and not just for the after-match singing.

Pool 3 is even more interesting with all four sides having a realistic chance should they garner two wins. Plymouth and Munster should take maximum points in their Friday games, setting up a final day shoot-out which could even end up with the official tie-breaking regulations being required.

Pool 5 could also see a final day shoot-out, the difference being that the two contenders, Leeds and Bristol will be playing each other to win the group. The Pirates are the only team mathematically certain of a QF place before a ball is kicked, and victory over Ayr should ensure the home tie that is the reward for the top four qualifiers.

The best runners-up? ooh, tricky one at this stage, but I reckon they'll come from pools 2, 4 and 5 - the loser of the Ponty/ Welsh tie-breaker after each achieve 21 points from their six games, another possible tie between Munster and Plymouth on 22 or 23 points, and Bristol with 24 points after a narrow defeat at Headingley. But whaddooIknow?

Friday January 10
Leinster A v Moseley, KO 18:00
Munster A v Nottingham Rugby, KO 19:30
Plymouth Albion v Stirling, KO 19:45

Saturday January 11
London Welsh v Pontypridd, KO 14:00
Edinburgh Academicals v London Scottish, KO 14:00
Rotherham Titans v Connacht Eagles, KO 14:00
Cross Keys v Ealing Trailfinders, KO 15:00
Llanelli v Bedford Blues, KO 15:00
Gala v Leeds Carnegie, KO 15:00
Jersey v Ulster Ravens, KO 15:00

Sunday January 12
Bristol Rugby v Aberavon, KO 15:00
Cornish Pirates v Ayr, KO 15:00

And Finally

Well done to our Guernsey neighbours, who last week ended the last unbeaten record in the National Leagues, beaten Dorking 8-6 in National Three SE. This week the Sarnians travel to play the team in second place, Old Elthamians.

In other local rugby, our friends are on another Jersey tour, playing Beeches at Grainville at 11.30am on Saturday. LQ against Panthers on the same day has been moved to March 8th, but there's a game of interest on Sunday when Jersey Colts travel to Basingstoke. And there is an tempting fixture on home soil on Sunday - Jersey's Under 14s take on Guernsey at St Peter (KO 12noon on pitch 4) in a game that may well decide the Sussex league title - support for the young Island talent would make a big difference.

Great to see ex-Jersey Coach Colin Cook over the festive season and learn about one of Jersey's current internationals, former 1st XV player Matt Cook. Matt is still playing for Spain, who he has represented internationally since qualifying on residence, and for whom he has now won 22 caps.


Matt now has a player-coaching role at Tunbridge Wells, who play in London Two South-East. He's 36 in May, but you never know - he's not quite ready to be 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells', writing letters to the Daily Telegraph, and there might still a fairytale ending to the career in prospect at the 2015 World Cup, where current Jersey hooker Elvis Taione and Jersey Athletic skipper Kingsley Lang also hope to feature for Tonga and Zimbabwe respectively. All we need now is for Stuart Lancaster to bring back Banners!

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!

Tom Innes

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