The final month of the league season begins with a tough ask of
a fixture for Jersey.
The Islanders head to the Kassam Stadium to play the
Championship's form side - London Welsh have won their last six
games, scoring 209 points in the process, and have secured their
play-off spot as they seek promotion back to the top level.
The Exiles could even enter the play-offs after topping the
regular season table - this will depend on their match at the
Memorial Stadium against Bristol next weekend, as well as their
ability to overcome a Jersey side looking to seal their own
Harvey Biljon's side need one more win to finally pull clear of
bottom-placed Ealing, who have a home game against the other
relegation contenders, Nottingham.
This is Jersey's first trip to the Kassam Stadium, home of
Oxford United, where Welsh relocated in summer 2012 in order to
meet the ground criteria for the Aviva Premiership. They recently
announced they would remain at the Kassam next season regardless of
which level they are playing at.
Even though it takes place in Oxford, not London, the trip will
feature a rare Saturday night return to the Island for the
visitors, thanks to the 2pm kick-off agreed for this game and the
corresponding fixture at St Peter in January. There will also be
the same man in charge - Greg Macdonald.
News from the Jersey Camp
Most sides are suffering from injuries at this time of year, and
Jersey are no exception, although other clubs have longer lists of
players missing. Two of those missing through injury will leave St
Peter at the end of the season - James Voss heading to Gloucester
on a scholarship at Hartpury College, and Dave Young to the Dragons
in Wales. Latu Makaafi begins a two week ban following a red card
against Moseley. Aaron Penberthy should return to the fray after a
freak tooth injury suffered in the warm-up against Moseley.
The Jersey line-up will be announced at 12noon on Friday.
Prior to the first weekend of 2014, The two clubs certainly hadn't
met in the modern era, and there's no obvious evidence of any
meetings going further back in time, although I wouldn't rule out
the Exiles having made a sneaky tour at some stage way back when.
If anyone has any info on this front, do tell!
Last January, the visiting Welshies took control of the game
through first half tries from Joe Ajuwa, Mike Denbee and Mitch
Lees, although Jersey gave themselves hope through two Niall
O'Connor penalties and a maiden try for Jack Burroughs (HT
The visitors would have expected a bonus point, but in the end
had to be content with sealing the victory through four Alex Davies
penalties, losing the second half 13-12 to a plucky Jersey side who
achieved a penalty try with seven minutes to play, grabbing a
losing BP in the process. 26-33 FT - report & pic links HERE
London Welsh in 2013/14
In the wake of relegation from the Premiership, the Exiles
recruited Justin Burnell as Head Coach. Burnell, 46, was a flanker
with Pontypridd, Treorchy, Bridgend and Neath in his playing days -
if he'd been playing 10 years later he'd no doubt have ended up
with a cap or three - who was subsequently a member of the coaching
set-up at Cardiff Blues for five seasons, including two as joint
Burnell (pictured above) set to work on some
recruitment of his own: former England international Tom May joined
as team captain, as did ex-British & Irish Lions hooker Andy
Titterrell. Assistant coach and fly half Gordon Ross and former
Wales centre Sonny Parker, club captain Matt Corker, scrum half Rob
Lewis and back row duo Richard Thorpe and Daniel Browne all add
further experience, to match the youthful talents of the likes of
Seb Stegmann (a Harlequins Academy graduate who went on to play for
Quins 1st XV before joining Esher), Nick Scott, Carl Kirwan (a
try-scorer for Rotherham v Jersey 16 months ago), Peter Browne and
Will Robinson. So far it has proven to be a good blend.
More recently the Exiles have added ex-Pirate Ian Nimmo and James
Tincknell, who started the season at the Pirates (having played
against Jersey for Wharfedale in January 2012), to their squad,
while five-times-capped England centre Ollie Smith joined the
coaching set up soon after leaving Esher.
Last month the Exiles confirmed no fewer than eight new
additions to their ranks: USA Eagles flanker John Quill, Munster
prop Paddy Ryan and versatile former London Wasps Academy back Liam
O'Neill, plus a return to the club for scrum half Tyson Keats.
There was also number 8 Rory Pitman on loan from Wasps and three
dual registration deals: Worcester Warriors and England U19 wing
Josh Watkins, Bath second row Will Spencer and Leicester Tigers
prop Tom Bristow.
Plymouth were despatched 40-9 at home and Welsh moved to the top
of the table, ahead of Rotherham, courtesy of a narrow 27-32
success at Clifton Lane.
The British & Irish Cup didn't start too well for the Welsh,
defeated by London Scottish and Pontypridd in their opening games.
They won back-to-back matches against Edinburgh Accies last month
and could yet manage a quarter-final place.
Back in the league, Welsh beat Cornish Pirates with ease and were
then more stretched by Leeds and Bristol, as well as Ealing who
showed they were getting to grips with the division in a 28-0
defeat to the unbeaten league leaders.
After defeating Moseley 8-24 at Billesley Comon, the Welsh were
finally downed by Bedford in a 28-26 thriller at Goldington
After the December B&I break, Welsh played their fellow Exiles
London Scottish at the Kassam. The Sky game was played in terrible
conditions, and the Scots made the better of it, chiselling away to
a 0-13 lead before Alan Awcock grabbed a consolation try, Alex
Davies' conversion attempt failing to achieve a bonus point with
the final kick.
In January, following the win in Jersey, the Exiles were squeezed
out of the B&I by Pontypridd, who have now reached the
semi-finals, but then got an important home win over Leeds.
Plymouth Albion hadn't won a home game all season when Welsh came
calling in early February, but the high-fliers were handed a shock,
hammered 36-15 by the Devonians. The recovery from this set-back
was impressive - beating Rotherham by a 30+ point margin at the
Kassam prior to a three-week break from competitive action.
March was an impressive month for Welsh - five wins and an
impressive 22 points out of a possible 25, including tough away
wins in Cornwall and Richmond and a hefty win over Moseley at Old
Deer Park, the old home patch pressed into service to tie in with
the England v Wales game at Twickenham.
History of London Welsh RFC
The history of London Welsh so far began, as it finished, with a
defeat to London Scottish. In October 1885 the Scots won by a try
and a goal at Saracens' old Walthamstow ground in East
The club has produced a steady stream of Welsh internationals,
although in the current squad only Sonny Parker (31 caps between
2002-08) has achieved that honour. The club's website puts the
total of Welsh caps over the years as 126, plus an incredible quota
of British Lions - 47.
The club achieved an amazing feat in 1971 when seven players
toured New Zealand with the Lions. Five of them appeared in all
four tests - Gerald Davies, Mervyn Davies, JPR Williams, John
Taylor and John Dawes. Full details HERE
When the league structure was introduced in 1987, Welsh started
at the level they are now, but then suffered consecutive
relegations in seasons two and three.
The 1990s saw the Exiles make it back up to the second tier, where
they stabilised for 13 seasons, including surviving going into
administration in 2009.
In 2011/12 London Welsh seized the moment, firstly on the field in
the play-offs by defeating Bristol and Cornish Pirates, and then in
the courtroom. By late June Welsh had successfully challenged the
ruling that they could not take their place in the Premiership,
staging their home games at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford and
thereby meeting the Premiership's Minimum Standards Criteria.
Life in the Premiership is rarely easy for the promoted side, and
the summer of uncertainty didn't help preparations for the Welsh,
although they made a good fist of the first half of the season,
winning four games. But after Christmas there was a five-point
deduction for fielding an ineligible player, and there wasn't
another win until it was too late, a final day success over nearest
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Oxford
through the following channels:
The Greene King IPA Championship this
Once the final whistle has blown at the Kassam, and perhaps even
before, Jersey supporters will have an eye or ear (shades of Van
Gogh?) out for events at Vallis Way, where bottom club Ealing must
beat 10th-placed Nottingham to retain a realistic start of avoiding
relegation. The game is a 3pm KO, and two hours later Moseley host
Bristol at Billesley Common. The visitors have a poor recent record
against Mose, but surely...
Sunday's games give Rotherham and Leeds the chance to seal
their play-off places prior to the Yorkshire derby next weekend.
Should either slip up, London Scottish could maintain their outside
chance of fourth spot with a home win against Bedford.
Saturday April 12
Ealing v Nottingham 15:00
Moseley v Bristol 17:05 (Live on Sky Sports)
Sunday April 13
London Scottish v Bedford 14:00
Cornish Pirates v Rotherham 15:00
Leeds v Plymouth Albion, 15:00
In other rugby in Jersey this weekend, the Jersey Athletic side
conclude their season with a home game against Blackheath at 3pm on
Saturday. It should be a good occasion - recent dry weather means
the main pitch at St Peter will be available, and the visitors are
making a trip of it by stopping over for some apres-match.
Visiting sides from the Midlands will make it a festival
atmosphere at Grainville, with Banks Gents taking on Birstall RFC
at 12noon and the Ladies taking on Stafford at 3pm. Birstall also
have a game on Sunday, when they play LQ at 3pm, while earlier in
the day the Doug Tranter final between Beeches and Jersey 2nds is
set to take place at St Peter at 12.30pm (this latter match is TBC
at the time of writing).
If a week is a long time in politics, as former PM Harold Wilson
once said, then 496 days is a very long time in a rugby career.
That's how long it's been since London Welsh centre Hudson
Tonga'uiha has played, dating back to a shoulder injury when
playing for Welsh in the Prem against London Irish in December
The 24-times capped Tongan (the clue's in the name) centre was set
to return at the start of this season, but this time his achilles
went and it's taken almost a whole season to get back in shape.
Hudson (pictured above scoring a try against
Leicester), whose real name is Kosilio, is set to feature
against Jersey - a triumph for his persistence. All but the
harshest Jersey fans may hope that he can mark his comeback by
scoring one, if not two tries, while helping his side register one,
if not two, bonus points in their defeat to the visiting
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Why not come a chillout in the supporters marquee before the game, A fully stocked bar and food is available, seated and standing tables, on a first come first served basis and a great place to meet the Reds supporters.