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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
• 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
• 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
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'
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
23 Mar 2023
January lessons show danger of banana skin in SW London