Ginger Princes, Hell-Raisers and the Slingbacks
The start of 2012 has been marked at a variety of the world's
major sporting arenas by the return of former greats. Thierry Henry
appeared at the Emirates Stadium, hot-on-the-heels of Paul Scholes
at Old Trafford, while in the stands at the Sydney Cricket Ground,
former Aussie PM and retired hell-raiser Bob Hawke (82) was filmed
- apparently spontaneously - downing a beer in one.
In such a climate it was no surprise to learn that Jersey and
Rosslyn Park had been fighting to secure a one-off come-back by
former great Rad Montgomery. Described by his agent as "only just
older than Simon Shaw, and with a straighter nose", Rad was
expected to make a late decision as to whether to play for his
adopted Island home, his former club, or to attend the pre-match
lunch. All three emergency services are on stand-by.
Jersey's first home game of 2012 is certainly a tempting affair,
both for home fans and for a significant number of travelling
supporters (100+ seems realistic) from London. Park head the table
by a single point from Jersey (68-67), and unlike the Islanders'
trip to Ealing last Saturday, the winners know they will definitely
lead the league at the end of the afternoon. The losers may lose
ground to Ealing (64 pts) and/ or Fylde (65), who visit Cinderford
and Sedgley Park respectively.
A total of 14 games have gone past since the clubs met
previously in late September, and each has lost just once in this
period, so the game is fascinatingly poised and looks set to be
played on a dry and bright, if cold, day at St Peter (k-o 3pm).
The dry weather should allow both sides to show-case their
attacking abilities - one statistical quirk is that both destroyed
Cambridge during their recent winning runs by scoring 33 unanswered
points in the second-half. Park's threat seems to stem mostly from
a back-line that has scored 45 tries this season. Jersey's backs
have 'only' 36 tries to their credit, however Park's 10 tries from
the forwards is out-done by Jersey's 29, which includes six penalty
Watch out for strong impact off the bench - Jersey have made a
habit of picking up late bonus points, while the visiting team's
bench leads the league by a distance in terms of try-scoring - Park
replacements have scored 11 tries this season, 10 of them in the
last quarter of game.
News from the Jersey camp
Jersey were delighted to start the year with a workman-like
24-16 win at then-leaders Ealing, scoring three tries to one,
denying the hosts a losing bonus point and gaining revenge for
Ealing's 26-15 win at St Peter in September.
The win did come at a cost, with leading points-scorer Mike Le
Bourgeois and centre Dai Bishop both leaving the game early on and
facing a fight to be fit for this Saturday. While neither has been
officially ruled out at the time of writing, at least Jersey have
capable replacements standing by. Ross Broadfoot has returned to
full fitness and is expected to start at fly-half, while Scotland
Under-20 player Glenn Bryce is fit again and available to play in
the back three if required.
The possible loss of Bishop would be a blow after he and Donovan
Sanders started 10 consecutive games together in the centres, but
both Ashley Maggs and James Copsey could fill in ably.
In the forwards, hooker Dave Felton was another casualty last
week and a late call will be made between him and Charlie
Clyde-Smith. The remaining issues will be to choose two starting
props and a replacement from Ben Evans, Myles Landick and Dai
Maddocks, and in the back row where Kingsley Lang, Nick Trower,
Steve O'Brien, Graham Bell and Guy Thompson (plus Rad Montgomery)
are all in contention.
Jersey's second away game of the season took them to Park's
ground at Priory Lane, also known as The Rock, which makes it sound
like a radio station in the US Mid-West.
Watched by 506 spectators, including three generations of the
Montgomery family, the match was a proverbial one of two halves.
Collectors of football clichés could have noted that while Ben
Harvey was over-the-moon at still being in the game at half-time,
when it was 6-6, his counterpart Jan Bonney must have been as
sick-as-a-parrot that his team had not translated their hegemony
into any sort of lead. It could even have been a winning lead, for
Park had five shots at goal, landing only two, as well as
territorial dominance that even meant both Jersey's efforts on goal
were from their own half, albeit stroked over with ease by Mike Le
Perhaps Park's fly-half Ross Laidlaw, who missed the whole of
September but has been ever-present since, was the key absentee,
not only in respect of goal-kicking - he averages about 13 points a
match - but also running the game.
Whatever the reason, Jersey brought a whole load more to the
party after half-time, attacking with real intent as Harvey made a
triple change in the opening minutes (Trower, Ellershaw and
Thompson). Le Booj landed two more kicks and 'Thommo' ended up on
the wing with Jersey's only replacement back, Tommy Turner, having
come on early for the injured Ross Broadfoot. Clinging to a 12-9
lead, a thrilling counter-attack sparked by James Copsey and Nathan
Hannay led to a try for Le Booj and at the death, rather than kick
the ball off the field to end the game, the visitors launched a
final attack that saw Paul Rodgers score to seal a 24-9 win.
Park in 2011/12
At the start of this season, Park looked unlikely indeed to be
challenging at the top. After a narrow home win against Blackheath
and an away win at Barking, Park lost successive matches to Ealing,
Cambridge and Jersey. A long away trip to Tynedale on October 1st
saw the team finally click, and they have won 12 of their last 13
matches. The sole exception was away to Coventry, where Park
battled back from a 23-0 deficit to lose by 30-29.
The recent good form has included some thumping wins: 59-12 at
Birmingham, 40-18 against Sedge and last week's great recovery
against Cambridge, but also a growing confidence in their winning
habit by edging close-fought contests such as the 16-10 success at
Fylde and the nail-biting 23-22 win against Ealing that brought the
curtain down on 2011.
The visit of Cambridge to The Rock was a topsy-turvy affair,
watched by 584 spectators, in which the away side led 17-10 at the
break only to be blown away in the second period. Of the six tries,
winger Steve Parsons scored once in each half, and the second-half
feast also saw Miles Mantella, Dom Shabbo, Ben Gotting and Nev
Edwards cross. Ross Laidlaw added a penalty and five
Park have one of the strongest mini / youth sections in the
country, having produced many Premiership players. There is a
home-grown flavour at the core of the present Park side with winger
Nev Edwards, full-back Ed Lewis-Pratt, centre Charlie Gower,
flanker Harry Rowland and prop Brett Williams all playing together
in the Rosslyn Park Colts team of a few seasons back that reached
the semi-finals of the National Colts Cup.
Grafted onto this, Park have several players with mixed levels
of experience. Winger John Rudd has appeared for England Saxons and
played regular Premiership rugby with Newcastle Falcons, while in
contrast, at centre, is the current England Under-19 fly half Will
Robinson. Also vying for a place at centre is former London Welsh
player Dom Shabbo.
At fly half Park have the former Scotland 'B' international,
Ross Laidlaw, the club's leading scorer each season since he joined
and one of the most dependable goal-kickers in the League. Ross
joined Park from Plymouth Albion in order to pursue a career in the
City. At scrum half Park have thus far alternated between the
vastly experienced Graham Barr and the highly promising former Bath
youngster Mike Baxter.
The Park pack has much experience to draw upon: Prop Laurence
Ovens and hooker Dan Richmond - also Park's Forwards Coach - were
Championship regulars with Bedford Blues last season, whilst
alternative props Nick Huggett and Lorne Ward have similar
experience with London Welsh. Alternative hooker Ben Gotting has
seen duty with London Wasps and doubles up as a fitness coach.
Skippering Park from the number 8 berth is Mark Lock, whose day
job is as a coach at London Wasps, for whom he played many
Premiership matches. He is joined at flanker by another former
Wasp, Jonny Barrett, while also vying selection at flanker is the
highly-regarded youngster Joe Trayfoot, who is jointly registered
with Harlequins and has caught the eye of the England Youth
Rosslyn Park Head Coach, Jan Bonney, is in his first season with
the club, having previously been Head of the highly successful
Saracens Academy and is also Coach of England Counties. He played
for London Scottish and Esher, but the job at Rosslyn Park is his
first in charge of a senior club side.
History of Rosslyn Park
The Club's name comes from that of the cricket club from which
the Football Club was formed in 1879, reflecting the area of
Hampstead where the cricketers first played their scratch games
before forming a proper cricket club.
At the end of their first season one of their number, Charles
Hoyer Millar, proposed forming a football club to keep the players
together during winter. There was already a Hampstead Football
Club, thus the adoption of the Cricket Club's name. The original
ground was at South End Green, Hampstead and then on to Gospel Oak
and Acton before a lengthy tenure at Old Deer Park. The present
colours were adopted in 1881.
Early fixtures were generally against the second teams of the
leading clubs but in the 1890s Rosslyn Park joined the elite with
matches against Oxford University, London Scottish, Blackheath,
Richmond, Harlequins and London Welsh. In April 1892, Park became
the first English club to tour abroad, their fixture against Stade
Francais in Paris being the first ever International Match between
the two countries at any code of football. Park won, though they
were totally unprepared for the crowd - literally thousands of
Parisians turned up, along with the British Ambassador!
In 1939 the club organised a schools' sevens competition which
16 teams entered. The event has gone on to become the world's
largest sevens tournament. In 1951 there was a further landmark
when the Park Seven won the Ladies' Cup at Melrose and thus became
the first club to bring a trophy south of the border. Those who
were there say that the victory was greeted in almost total
After much negotiation, in 1956 the Club secured a 100-year
lease of the present ground, the polo field of the adjacent
Rosslyn Park was thus firmly established in the upper echelons
of the English game, and so the club remained for a hundred years.
Before Leagues entered Rugby Union, Rosslyn Park twice reached the
Final of the RFU Knock-out competition at Twickenham, narrowly
losing on both occasions. When league rugby began in 1987, Rosslyn
Park were placed in Division Two, which they won. The march of
professionalism saw Park unable quite to repeat the level of
achievement of the earlier years. With no "sugar daddy", they
decided to remain amateur rather than dabble with some sort of
halfway house with semi-professionalism. The Club has since bowed
to the inevitable and operates on a semi-professional basis in
striving to recover its former glories.
When semi-professionalism was introduced in 2007/08, Park
finished 9th at level Four, but the following season they were
second, and in 2009/10 they matched this achievement, with a league
double over Ealing helping them achieve 113 points. This was the
same figure as Trailfinders, but Park had won more games and went
on to beat Loughborough Students in the play-off 43-21.
In their first season back at Level Three in 2010/11, Park
finished a creditable 7th in the table although they did also
concede the most points, 847, by any team.
Despite their ambitions, Rosslyn Park aims to remain a real
rugby club, run by and for its own members with teams offering a
game for anyone, operating the full range of social teams, mini-
Rad Montgomery is well-known in both camps, having moved to
Jersey after a glittering career in the great Rosslyn Park teams of
the 1970s and 80s, which were a force to be reckoned with whether
at 15-a-side, at the annual Middlesex Sevens tournament that used
to sell out Twickenham at the end of every season, or in the bar
afterwards. But there are a number of other names from Park's past
(even bigger than Rad!) some of whom played in the same team as
* Andy Ripley. A maverick and true legend of
the game, 'Rips' won 24 England caps in the 1970s, later starred in
BBC's Superstars, came close to selection for the University Boat
Race aged 50 and fought a noble battle against cancer, which
eventually claimed him at the age of 62 in 2010. One of the bars at
Priory Lane is named after him.
* Alexander Obolensky. The other bar at Park's
ground is named after the Russian Prince, who played four times for
England in 1936 and scored a famous try against New Zealand with a
mesmeric diagonal run.
* Paul Ackford. The Rugby Correspondent of
The Sunday Torygraph started at Park before moving to
Harlequins and winning 25 England caps.
* Martin Offiah. As well as having two of the
best-ever rugby nicknames (both 'Chariots' and 'Great Balls' have
been coined), Offiah went on to great things in rugby league after
being 'spotted' at the Middlesex sevens, winning 33 Great Britain
and 5 England caps in the 13-man code.
* Of current players, Alex King, Nick Easter and
Danny Cipriani all started their careers at
* The actor Oliver Reed (is there a hell-raising
theme to this week's preview?) played for Rosslyn Park in the 1970s
and purchased a set of floodlights for the club.
Rosslyn Park Trivia
* One of the scrum-halves in Park's senior squad is Rhys
Lapidus, whose uncle is the JRFC President, David.
* Rhys played against Jersey's James Copsey in April 2006 at
Priory Lane when Copsey scored a try for Old Patesians, who won
24-14 in a National Three South game.
* Park has its own Ladies Section, who run two sides and are known
as the Slingbacks.
* Leading scorers this season are Miles Mantella, 15 tries thus
far, and Ross Laidlaw, with 170 points from kicks plus one try.
This haul has helped Laidlaw overtake Sam Howard (626) as Park's
all-time record scorer (at least in the modern 'league' era).
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey
v Rosslyn Pk through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's Sportscene from 6-7pm
on Friday, this week coming live from JRFC, and live commentary on
Saturday afternoon. Even available in south-west London for those
who are online.
• Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby
• Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon, either just
before or just after 5pm depending on how many times the ref stops
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online
As mentioned above, the Pavilion bar at JRFC will be open on
Friday evening between 6 and 7pm for some pre-game chat, with our
local BBC station in attendance. This event is for JRFC members and
invited guests only.
You'll also find plenty of info, and the excellent Park
News periodical on the Rosslyn Park website
Enjoy your rugby this weekend...
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.