Historic rivals Jersey and Guernsey are preparing to face each other in the climactic game of the 2014/15 rugby season in the Channel Islands.
The two sides will compete at St Peter for the Ipes Siam Cup, seeking to win one of rugby's oldest trophies.
Jersey's squad has been announced, and includes the club's longest-serving player, Jon Brennan, will start in the front row in what will be his final appearance at 1st XV level for the Island side.
Brennan's service began before the arrival of Jersey's first professional players in 2006 and stretches back to the early 'noughties', when the club was competing in London Three South-West.
The stalwart prop, known as 'The Bear' to many Jersey supporters and team-mates, will make his last growl as part of a strong Jersey starting XV composed entirely of players who featured in this season's Greene King IPA Championship. Several others are making farewell appearances: back row forwards Ryan Hodson and Paula Kaho and centres David Bishop and Tobias Hoskins. Ryan Glynn, another departing player, misses out through injury.
Aaron Penberthy, who has played most of his rugby at full-back in the second half of the current season, reverts to his primary position at fly-half, which means a place at full-back for Jack Burroughs, the 21-year-old Islander who made his debut for Jersey in the 2013 Siam Cup.
Two former 1st XV players who have been part of the Jersey Athletic squad this season are among Jersey's replacements: back row forward Nick Trower, who made his last 1st XV appearance in the Championship match against Newcastle Falcons in November 2012, and flanker Ross Allan, who last played 1st XV rugby for Jersey in 2009 in between spells with Plymouth Albion and in New Zealand.
Three departing players from Jersey's professional ranks are also set to make their Siam Cup debuts before leaving for pastures new: prop Harry Williams, centre Drew Locke and fly-half Jonny Bentley.
The Siam Cup, sponsored for the second year by Ipes, specialist providers of fund services to the private equity industry, kicks off at 3pm. The headline match will be part of a festival of rugby at St Peter, which also includes matches between the Veterans, Ladies and 2nd teams of the rival Islands.
One of Jersey's best-known fans will be the club's VIP guest at the Siam - Superman actor Henry Cavill will be at St Peter in his role as an Ambassador for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which is the focus of a major fund-raising day coinciding with the rugby.
Jersey 1st XV v Guernsey 'H' - Ipes Siam Cup, Saturday May 2nd, St Peter, k-o 3pm
Alex Rae (capt)
Guernsey 1st XV
Blair Campbell (capt)
Robin Le Cocq
History of the Siam Cup
According to a family history of the Forty family, the Siam Cup was presented by CH Forty, an officer based in Siam with the Durham Light Infantry, in 1912, however it was not used as a rugby trophy until 1920, and was first contested between Island sides in 1935. Further historical information can be obtained elsewhere on the JRFC site.
The dangers of complacency by the higher-ranked side, Jersey, have been underlined in recent years. On the two occasions in the past decade, the Siam Cup has been Jersey's last game of a promotion-winning season, and they have lost.
In 2005 Jersey took the London 3 South-West title by a large margin. A week after the final league game, Guernsey claimed a 28-24 win at St Peter - their first Siam success in a decade.
Three years later, Jersey won another promotion after a London 2 play-off victory over Staines. A week later, and Guernsey were 22-13 victors at Footes Lane.
2008 was the Sarnians most recent victory. Since then Jersey won further promotions in 2010 and 2011, but in both these years the Siam came as part of the build-up to the climactic games against Ampthill (the National 3 championship game at Twickenham) and Loughborough (the National 2 play-off), with players playing for their places. On both occasions a focused Jersey side inflicted heavy defeats.
The Siam Cup this century
2000: Jersey 54 Guernsey 20. At the time, Jersey's second-highest points tally in Siam history, beaten only by the 69 registered in 1997
2001: Guernsey 12 Jersey 32
2002: Jersey 23 Guernsey 8
2003: Guernsey 0 Jersey 27
2004: Jersey 32 Guernsey 22 (the smallest margin among nine straight Jersey wins)
2005: Jersey 24 Guernsey 28. A second-successive home game for Jersey due to development work at Footes Lane in Guernsey. International referee Donal Courtney sends off Jersey's Roger Quirk, and sin-bins his colleague Steve O'Brien, in a fiery encounter, and a 74th-minute try by Tom Smit seals the win. The 4-point winning margin is the smallest in any Siam Cup since 1988 (Guernsey 12 Jersey 8) and before that the 3-3 draw in 1978
2006: Guernsey 13 Jersey 38. An easy win for Jersey, and another flurry of cards including a red for Matt Banahan in his second and final (to date) Siam appearance. One of Guernsey's water-boys invades the pitch, a move he quickly comes to regret. Oh, and the whole thing is captured on video and placed on Youtube
2007: Jersey 8 Guernsey 17. A gritty away win for the Sarnians in the lowest-scoring Siam since an 18-3 win for Jersey in 1991
2008: Guernsey 22 Jersey 13. Guernsey lead 10-8 at half-time and 15-13 with minutes to play before sealing the win through a late try
2009: Jersey 34 Guernsey 6. Two Tommy Turner tries help Jersey to an easy win in a game refereed by Luke Pearce, then aged 21, who has since gone on to the Premiership and IRB Sevens circuit
2010: Guernsey 0 Jersey 36. Ashley Maggs gets two tries, altho' Jersey's pack outdoes the backs with tries by Trower, Brownrigg and Kemp
2011: Jersey 73 Guernsey 5. An 11-try rout, with James Copsey and Donovan Sanders both claiming hat-tricks, sparks fears about the future of the Siam
2012: Guernsey 0 Jersey 29. The worst Siam weather in recent memory has an effect on the game, with scoring at one end of the ground virtually impossible all day. Jersey ground out a half-time lead through tries by Guy Thompson (2), Glenn Bryce and a penalty try, and that was also the final score
2013: Jersey 41 Guernsey 8. Jersey say goodbye to a host of players who were either leaving the Island or not graduating to full-time status: Glenn Bryce, Ashley Maggs, Mike Le Bourgeois, Dave McCormack, Brendan O'Brien, Richard Barrington, Nathan Hannay, Graham Bell, Kingsley Lang, Eoghan Nihill and Talite Vaioleti. A certain lack of focus in the early stages leaves Guernsey 0-8 up after half an hour, and even tries by McCormack, Felton and Maggs leave it poised at 17-8 at the break. Just one further try, by Leeds-bound Hannay, happens in the first 30 minutes of the second period, but the home crowd are sent home happy when wingers Dawson and Levesley (2) race over in the final 10 minutes
2014: Guernsey 7 Jersey 38 (pictured above). The visitors scored three tries and 19 points in each half: Nicky Griffiths, Ed Dawson and Mark Foster in the first half, and Joe Buckle, Sam Lockwood and Tom Brown in the second. Dale Rutledge scored a deserved consolation try for the Sarnians
Overall tally (based on figures in the 2004 Siam Cup programme): Jersey 58 wins; Guernsey 13 wins; 3 games drawn
Guernsey RFC History
Guernsey Rugby Union Football Club was founded in January 1928. Although there are records of rugby union being played in the Island as far back as the 19th century. The game gave way to soccer until the Guernsey Rugby Club was formed. Initially the club only ran one side and had a membership of 20-30. The club now runs three senior sides, a youth team and a very active junior section.
The first team has competed in the English national leagues since 1987. Guernsey and Jersey were last in the same league when they competed in Hampshire One (Level 9) in 1994/95.
In the Siam-Cup winning season of 2004/05 Guernsey finished second in London 4 SW and were promoted to Level 7, at that stage just one level behind Jersey.
In subsequent seasons the Sarnians became a stronger presence at this level, finishing 10th, 5th, 4th and 7th before taking the runners-up spot in 2009/10, only to lose a play-off at Hove by 17-14.
But in 2010/11 they took the league title by a point from Trojans, thanks to a bonus point in defeat (15-16) on the final day of the season against their Hampshire rivals - their only home loss that season. In 2011/12 the Sarnians lost just three games - at Old Elthamians and Sidcup in September, and against Portsmouth the following month. They then won 18 straight matches, enabling them to win London 1 South at the first time of asking. The Greens finished with 111 points, three ahead of Old Elthamians (who subsequently won the play-off), and a F/A points record of 951/ 317.
Guernsey have now played three seasons National 3 SE - Level 5. In 2012/13 they achieved a solid mid-table finish - 8th with 12 wins out of 26 games, and the following year achieved a three-place improvement. This season tere was a danger of relegation, but starting in January the club won seven of their last nine league games to secure National Three status for 2015/16.
Other rugby this weekend
There are three other inter-Island games at St Peter this weekend:
10am - The Nash Cup - Jersey Wanderers v Guernsey Vets v Jersey
12noon - The Fallaize Cup - Jersey 2nds v Guernsey 2nds
1pm - The Ladies Siam - Jersey v Guernsey (pitch 4)
The Greene King IPA Championship moves to the business end of the season this weekend, with four teams contesting the Promotion Play-Offs. On Saturday there are semi-final first leg ties between Bristol and Rotherham Titans, and London Scottish v Worcester. See preview HERE
Another significant promotion issue will be settled by a one-off play-off between the runners-up of National Two divisions north and south. Ampthill, coached by former Welsh international Paul Turner, a regular visitor to Jersey to watch his son Tommy represent Jersey, take on their near neighbours Bishop's Stortford in a match to decide who'll go up to National One.
The other main rugby action is the European Champions Cup Final at Twickenham between Toulon and Clermont Auvergne on Saturday at 5pm, preceded tonight (Friday) by the Challenge Cup final at The Stoop between Gloucester and Edinburgh.
Jersey honoured stalwart supporter Bunny Le Saux last weekend, with a minute's applause before the 1st XV match against Moseley, and the presentation of the Supporters' Player of the Year, named after Bunny as a tribute. This weekend the club will welcome Bunny's son Alan and daughter Sandy, whose trip was set up by JRFC, along with their father, a former Jersey player who in recent years followed the club the length and breadth of the UK from his Southampton home, prior to his recent sad death. We hope they have a good weekend, which will no doubt involve a mixture of sadness and happy memories. See picture below of Bunny, Sandy, and JRFC's Myles Landick from the 2014 Siam.
For the last time this season, enjoy your weekend's rugby!
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