Category Archives: B&I Cup

B&I Cup – do the numbers add up?

This article was first published in the matchday programme for the Greene King IPA Championship game between Rotherham Rugby & Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday 28th October 2017

It was a weekend where numbers seemed to dominate everything. It started with calculations about mileage, routes and times and ended with an analysis of cost/benefits!

When the fixture lists come out, I start to plan our weekends. These days, the visits to London are so stressful with road works, accidents and congestion/emission charges that I often see if the train works out cheaper. It’s certainly less stressful. When I worked out that we would play Richmond and Ealing 4 times this year, in cup & league, that was 2 extra trips down to London to plan for. However, this last weekend, since I was in Cornwall for the previous week, I decided to drive up on the Saturday morning, then after the game, head on home to Nottinghamshire. All in all, about 500 miles, in around 12 hours. Possibly not the wisest decision I’ve ever made.

On the way up from Cornwall the route via A30/A303 was gorgeous. Brilliant sunshine, fantastic views out over Devon, Dorset and Wiltshire, and I even got to see Stonehenge. It was also quite fun to check out the traffic jams heading the other way for the half term break. 10 miles was the longest! It was a good start to what I hoped would be a successful day.

At the game the first half was good for us, lots of pressure, not always turning into points, but the feeling was certainly that we were playing well. The second half was definitely not the same. I still can’t quite work out what went wrong, but suddenly we were on the end of another defeat. The drive home wasn’t looking great, and being diverted via Hatfield, and torrential rain up the A1, sort of finished me off.

In Sunday’s Rugby Paper, attendance figures at B&I Cup games were quite awful. Yes the weather last weekend was bad, perhaps people were reluctant to travel far, money is tight etc etc. But when only 623 people turn up to watch Richmond v Rotherham, the question is whether the game was even remotely financially viable for the club. The chairman of Richmond also spoke to the RP about costs involved in taking part in this competition. Like us they have an away game in Connacht to plan, and his assessment of the costs involved for travel, accommodation, food etc is around the £10,000 mark.

So what financial return do the clubs get for taking part in this competition? Nothing until you get to the final stages. The B&I as it currently exists finishes this season, so the opportunity is there to do something different.  But what? Opinion on the various forums I follow suggest that the majority of the clubs in the Championship want more league matches, to guarantee a home game every other weekend, against meaningful opposition, and there is speculation that this will come from expanding the league. We will see.

So cost/benefit analysis of the weekend? Not great really. 500 miles for 80 minutes of rugby, and another loss. In hindsight it wasn’t the most sensible plan I’ve ever had but, having said all that, the trip to Galway is all planned for us and many of the #ShedOnTour. Hopefully an epic weekend in Ireland, with a win to make it even better. It’s the only benefit I can see with the B&I.

 

 

“The Best Match Ever!”

(This article was first published in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v Connacht in the B & I Cup on Saturday 14/10/2017)

Dudley

When people ask how long we’ve been following Roth, I judge it by the shirt. The picture above, of John Dudley wearing what I still see as THE Rotherham shirt, takes me back to the epic game at Bedford when we got promoted to the Premiership. Best game ever? I certainly thought so back in 2000, even though we lost 14-0 on the day, but won 40-34 on aggregate! Last week someone at the club (Mr Sylvester?) put up the picture of John Dudley celebrating the win, and comments said it was 20 years ago? No – only 17, but it made a good story on Twitter and reminded me of many great days out at Bedford.

Last Saturday’s game there was a first for many though, as the match was live-streamed, through 24:7 TV, via the Championship and England websites. My Luddite other half still isn’t quite up to speed with advances in technology and, like others questioning this development; he wasn’t sure how it all worked. Did you have to pay to watch it? Was it really ‘Live’ or just highlights? Was it just on Sky TV? Would we end up with Stuart Barnes commentating? Perish the thought!

Quick answers – yes it’s free, you simply need a computer/tablet/phone with internet access, and it is definitely ‘Live’, even down to commentators perched on a wobbly platform and getting wet in the second half!

247 tv

As I sat in the very traditional Press Box, tweeting away on the small wooden foldaway bench, I was picking up comments from people all over the world, watching little old Roth playing ‘live’. Friends in Japan stayed up late to relive the feeling of watching Roth play Bedford, family in Cornwall enjoyed seeing Francisco play his first full game – he did ok too – and the nephew on the bus from Cornwall to Sheffield for the National County Swimming Championships was able to watch it as well, although he won’t have any data left this month!

Nearly 2.5K were at Bedford on Saturday to watch the game, despite it being streamed, so people obviously prefer the live action to watching on a screen. But if it allows fans in far flung places to watch, gives people a free opportunity to see what Championship rugby has to offer, perhaps it will help this league to grow and attract more people through the gates. My friend in Japan was sad though, as he was there on the day we finally got promoted and seeing us struggle these past seasons hasn’t been easy.

Nos Nosh

In front of us in the Press Box on Saturday was a very special birthday party. The young man in question celebrating his special day was 5 years old. One of his guests, sitting with his dad (who looked like he needed beer and earplugs desperately by the end) wanted to know who we were and what we were doing. His dad explained about newspapers etc and his son offered us a quote for our pieces: It was the ‘Best Game Ever’.

Judging by the excitement, the screaming and the way they were yelling for the Blues, it really was the ‘Best Game’ he’d ‘Ever Seen’. It was his first and only game so far! But I think he will be back, as will all of us who’ve supported Roth for so long. Bedford is still a place for making great memories, but I bet Paul Rickett doesn’t use the quote in the Advertiser!

 

 

The joys (or not) of the B & I Cup

b-and-i

So the B&I Cup is over for Rotherham for another year. Perhaps over forever if the RFU go through with some of the changes they are proposing? After what was in effect a ‘dead rubber’ against Doncaster last week, social media was full of the negatives of this competition.

 

Certainly the pool that Rotherham found themselves in this year has done nobody any favours. We’ve had 2 expensive away trips, to London Welsh, and then to the back of beyond in Ireland for the game against Munster A. The cost of the London game, a bus for a day, was nothing compared to the costs involved for the Munster A game – bus, ferry and hotel bills for the squad and coaches. The #ShedOnTour apparently had a fantastic weekend; I would think the players had a different view, arriving back in Rotherham in the early hours of Monday morning after hours on bus and ferry, after a battering by Munster. The glamour of being a professional rugby player!

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For Rotherham, the first B&I game in London eventually meant nothing, in more ways than one. With the removal of London Welsh from the competition, there are unseen costs to add to the account; the missing home game against them that should have happened in January. Gate receipts, bar takings, hospitality; nothing coming in at all until the end of the month, and yet wages and bills have to be paid.

 

While Welsh have to pay back their creditors, according to the RFU ruling for them to reform as a new club, this doesn’t include anything for the clubs who have lost money through B&I fixtures being cancelled. Doncaster lost possibly one of their best weekends for hospitality, just before Christmas, where they would have had full bars, and plenty of people through the gates. No extra cash for them from Welsh or from the RFU. 

 

By the time we finally got to the last B&I pool game, against Doncaster last weekend, neither team could progress any further. Truly a dead match.

 

For anyone who went, it certainly didn’t come across as that. Both teams fielded good squads, with a couple of youngsters on the bench, and it was certainly played as if it mattered. A couple of eyeball to eyeball moments, the best with George Tressider squaring up to Latu Makaafi! We even out scored them with the tries, and if the maul hadn’t collapsed towards the end of the first half, then Charlie might have got his hat trick.  

 

So, what about the B&I, should it stay or go? 

 

It certainly hasn’t done us any favours this year, in our pool, but on the day, last Saturday, we just wanted a game. A win would have made it a better day, but after nearly 3 weeks with no rugby, then the B&I was OK. As for next season – who knows. 

This article first appeared in the programme for Rotherham Titans v Richmond on Saturday 28th January 2017. It was written before the RFU suspended London Welsh from the Championship and ended their involvement in all competitions this season. 

Rotherham’s Irish connections

Last weekend we witnessed some classy finishing from London Irish, as they continued  their campaign to return to the Premiership; 11 games and 11 wins, with lots of bonus points along the way. One of our ex players was also back with Irish; Fergus Mulchrone who, along with brother Charlie, is fondly remembered by the supporters. I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t see London Irish winning the league, and the playoffs; then they will probably swap places with Bristol, and start next season trying to survive in the Premiership.

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They have some excellent players already on the pitch; Tommy Bell gave a master class in how to take advantage of errors, with pace and skill. On the wing, the young Joe Cokanasinga was really enjoying bouncing into our players, and showing his ability to beat defenders. You could see why this Fijian-born youngster has already worn an England shirt for the U18s. There were international players throughout the Irish team, but they will still have the problem of recruiting late in the season, if/when they win the playoffs, and start their Premiership campaign on the back foot.

In Sunday’s Rugby Paper, it was reported that Chris Booy, Chairman of Bristol, was urging Premiership clubs to compensate the Championship for agreeing to return to whoever wins the league gets promotion. His argument is that the late preparation created by the playoffs unfairly penalises the club coming up.

The Premiership clubs debate this on Tuesday (13th Dec) and although the playoffs would remain this season, it would mean that in 2017/18, Bristol would hope to be bouncing straight back up again. We will have to see where this goes, and also keep an eye open for who succeeds Andy Robinson, as the Rugby paper speculates it will be Pat Lam joining as Head Coach, with Stuart Lancaster as Chief Operating Officer. Be good to welcome them to Clifton Lane next season.

So back to Rotherham’s Irish connections, on the day we welcome Munster to Clifton Lane in the B & I Cup.

Rotherham have always had a long standing connection with Ireland, with some great names coming through the club over the years, often sponsored by Tony Clabby, probably to keep his Irish family happy! Kevin Maggs is fondly remembered by many supporters, and it is a shame we won’t be catching up with him at Moseley this year. Hopefully they can find a way to overcome Hartpury College and back to the Championship before too long.

kevin-maggs

 

Gareth Steenson continues to be a phenomenal kicking machine for Exeter Chiefs, and I could never really understand why he never played for Ireland at senior level. He might only have been with us for a season, but he is remembered for his kicking skills, which later enabled Exeter to beat Bristol back in 2010, and helped them move steadily up the Premiership ladder. He has an exceptional record, recognised with the Golden Boot Award last season.

steenson

So to Munster; their first team often includes another Rotherham fans’ favourite, Robin Copeland. I know I wasn’t the only person from Rotherham who was delighted to see him get a full Irish cap in 2014. I hope he can keep injury free and challenge for another run out for Ireland as well as for Munster.

copeland

In the B&I Cup, Munster have done better than Rotherham, winning in 2012, runners up in 2010 and losing semi finalists in 2013 and 2015. We can’t match their record, but they did lose to London Welsh in the first round, over in Ireland, so perhaps this year we can do better?

As for the other, more recent, Irish boys, we keep meeting up with them as we travel around Championship grounds; Willie Ryan, Sean Scanlon, James McKinney, and for any I have missed, I am sure supporters with better memories will tell me before the end of the game! The #TitansFamily has always had a soft spot for Irish lads, but we really could do with a win against them a couple of times this season!

First published in the programme for the B&I Cup game Rotherham v Munster A on 10th December 2016

#Friday Night Lights at Bedford Blues

 

So when is the best time to play a rugby match? No sarcastic answers such as ‘whenever we win’…..

Bedford have decided that Friday night, for some games, is the best way forward financially; they encourage people to come straight from work, have a drink and a meal, then stay on after the game, for live music and yet more beer. Since there were 2398 of us, in the pouring rain at Bedford on Friday night, it seems like this formula is working. After the match the marquee was packed, and so were the bars; hopefully a profitable night for them.

Looking at the attendances for Saturday’s games, I expected that there would be a decent crowd at Irish; 4025 people went, probably with a sizeable contingent from Welsh for this Exiles derby.

Over in Jersey 1702 people watched them lose to Scottish. We all know that every club tries to take as many fans as possible to this away game, always an epic trip, even if the rugby isn’t the most memorable part of it!

On Saturday afternoon we wandered over to Doncaster, where an awful scrappy game was thrown away by Nottingham, via 3 yellow cards and some shambolic line out work when camped on Donny’s 5m line. Apparently 1388 were watching, but they must have been in the hospitality boxes, or under the stand, as it looked a very small crowd indeed.

So back to the Friday Night argument and especially the negative effect on the away support. There was no supporters’ bus on Friday, which is most unusual. To get to Bedford, by bus, would have meant at least half a day off work for people, not a practical option. It was left to those of us with more flexible timetables (!), to find alternative ways to join in the fun. #ShedOnTour were there, noisy as ever, but via cars, not bus.

ps

Paul Selwood deserves an honourable mention for the expedition he undertook from Plymouth to Bedford, on public transport, to add his voice on Friday night. We tried that once, going from Doncaster by train, on a Friday afternoon, to get to Scottish v Rotherham out at the RAG. We made it by the skin of our teeth, just as the teams ran out, and the train home got us into the house just before 1am. We haven’t ever contemplated repeating that expedition!

Arguments on various forums point out that Friday night/Sunday afternoon games allow players from other local clubs to come along to watch, and if I have to choose, then I think that the Sunday option is preferable to Friday night. For Pirates games, which are almost always on a Sunday, it allows teams to travel on a Saturday to Cornwall, rather than brave the motorways on a Friday for a Saturday fixture. Nottingham have to play to suit the football teams’ requirements, and Leeds do what they do…..

Interestingly, the view of the players from Bedford about #Friday Night Lights was explored in their programme. As well as getting the weekend off, Mike Rayer had given them the Monday too, so a couple of guys were planning a fishing trip, others were off to Dublin and one was planning a box-set-binge weekend!

We managed 3 live games; Friday with Roth, Saturday with Donny and finally Roth’s old boys on the TV for Ealing on Sunday. Just a shame we lost…..

 

 

This article was first published in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v Doncaster Knights in the B&I cup on Saturday 15/10/16

We ‘walloped’ the Wizards in Wales…….

Well, according to the newspapers we did! It was certainly a game full of tries, the 3rd one for Michael Keating well worth watching again. Great handling, lovely running lines and a real celebration of rugby skills. But ‘walloped’ (Yorkshire Post) or even ‘routed’? (Sheffield Star) Don’t think so. Aberavon didn’t give up, they fought to the end, and they weren’t helped by some very strange decisions by the, dare I say it, ‘English’ referee. The crowd around us definitely felt they weren’t getting a fair deal from him.

Even for the most fervent Roth supporters, it was a very long way to go for a rugby match. The report says that there were 250 there, and not many made if from Roth – we might have just filled a mini bus, but it was worth the trip.

It was a beautiful sunny day, the motorways were free of traffic, and I didn’t have to drive for the 8 hours we spent in a car. My thanks to Josh, the mad fool I have as a friend, who volunteered to drive when my sensible husband decided a golf competition was a better way to spend a Saturday.  It was a long drive, even more so for the team on a coach. An early start apparently saw competition for space to stretch out, with Mr McKinney and Mr Tampin winning – nice picture Mr Parker!

 

aberavon 1

 

We stopped off in Monmouth for lunch, a beautiful little town, full of Christmas shoppers, a brass band playing carols, and the ruins of the castle where Henry V was born. Loved the fact that Agincourt Square was actually triangular! The things you learn as a travelling Roth supporter.

A friend from Wales, who hadn’t been to Aberavon Rugby Club for over 30 years, described the ground and its setting perfectly. Tucked up against the M4, a huge hill towering over one end, and surrounded by narrow streets and terraced houses. A proper rugby club, with passionate rugby people. Like Bristol a few weeks ago, there were hordes of kids. Possibly some came to see Father Christmas in his grotto, or buy a wooden Christmas reindeer, but most were there for the intense tag rugby battles at half time.

The programme hadn’t quite got their facts straight about us – Garry Law as Club Captain – not sure if Marshall saw this!

Abaeravon 2

Writing in the programme, they did have some important points about the role clubs like Aberavon and Rotherham play in developing young players. I also liked the statement about what makes a ‘proper rugby club’ – as their editor said: ‘My club is like …. an extended family…where I can spend a convivial afternoon or evening amongst like-minded friends’.

It had an atmosphere to match Clifton Lane, with entertainment in the bar afterwards, lots on at the club every week, and friendly, knowledgeable supporters. It certainly didn’t have anything to match Dion’s pie, but we were offered Argentinean sausages in a bun, before being wished a safe journey home, and good luck for the rest of the season.

They also would really like us to beat Leeds – losing 85-0 wasn’t their finest hour, but all credit to them, they ran Leeds close in the return fixture and their heads didn’t go down against us. A proper rugby club, and another reason for us to get that win against Leeds at the Lane.

This article first appeared in the programme for Rotherham Rugby v Yorkshire Carnegie in the B&I Cup, at Clifton Lane on Saturday 13th December 2014 – and we didn’t beat them, we lost 22-28 but got the bonus point we needed for a home draw in the quarter finals of the B&I Cup! From 5-28 down, to come back and get that bonus, well, it certainly felt like we had won something.