Category Archives: Greene King IPA Championship

‘Money, money, money – it’s a rich man’s world’

This article first appeared in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v Jersey Reds in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 18th November 2017


When we go to Bristol, strangely I always feel that the ABBA song is most appropriate! Since we were last there, they’ve certainly been spending the cash. The old main stand is now replaced by the Atyeo stand, with Media Centre, amazing changing rooms and facilities for the teams and even padded seats for us up in the top tier, where several of my colleagues admitted to a touch of vertigo. We were joined before the game started by the remains of the Bristol squad – apart from the 40+ they had running round on the pitch for the warm up! They had a few missing on International duty as well; 1 playing for Georgia and 4 playing for Samoa. It still meant that our youngsters were up against the likes of Sheedy, Pisi, Piutau, Cortes, Hurrell and Varndell. The very scary Steven Luatua was also on the bench – do check out his contributions to the Barbarians v All Blacks as he is a terrifying player with the ball in hand. Bristol didn’t bring him on and I don’t know if I was relieved or disappointed!

It wasn’t the money at Bristol that was on my mind though when I started to research this piece, but the 4 players out for Samoa do have a bearing on it. On 8th November, the Prime Minister of Samoa said that their rugby team was bankrupt, just before they started the Autumn Internationals against Scotland and England. A ‘Just Giving’ page was set up by Dan Leo and the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Group, to try and support the players who probably won’t be getting the £650 match fee from their Union. Just for comparison, the match fee for the England players is around £23,000 – each – and to their credit the Vunipola brothers have started their own campaign for the England players to donate part of their fee to the Samoa squad. The RFU do cover all the Samoan expenses while on tour; transport, hotels etc but the divide between the teams for what they receive is quite staggering, especially since the RFU stand to make around £10 million from the match at Twickenham.

When I last checked the website, the total raised so far was £3,184 from 144 people. They are aiming for £150,000 which is the equivalent of £1 from each seat at Murrayfield and Twickenham where people will be entertained by the skill and aggression of the Samoan team. How much of the match day earnings actually go to the Samoans? Traditionally none, but the RFU are planning a ‘contribution’ this time. How many times have England gone to Samoa to play a match there and help raise funds? Never.

Surely proper rugby supporters can do better than just 144 people contributing! Every team in the Premiership, Championship, Pro 14, even probably National One have some link now, or in the past, to the skill and power of players from the South Pacific Islands.

PI group

So for us at Roth, just a quick reminder of the debt we owe to some very special guys:

As they say on Strictly, in no particular order (and with special thanks to

  • Ifereimi Boladau                   Fiji
  • Isaac Fe’aunati                      Samoa
  • Niki Goneva                           Fiji
  • Chris Hala’ufia                      Tonga
  • Latu Makaafi                         Tonga
  • Opeta Palepoi                       Samoa
  • Seru Rainima                         Fiji
  • Jacob Rauluni                        Fiji
  • Tu Tamarua                           Cook Islands
  • Semisi Taulava                      Tonga
  • Hiroshi Tia                             Samoa
  • Alfie Tooala                           Samoa
  • Mike Umaga                          Samoa
  • Talite Vaioleti                        Tonga

I would be proud to buy any of these gentlemen a drink in our bar, and so I will be donating to the fund, with grateful thanks to them all in the name of Rotherham Rugby. I would encourage any of you to do the same, for without the likes of Alfie, Jake and the amazing Mr Umaga, Rotherham Rugby wouldn’t be the club it is today, proud to be supporting the career of yet another gem from the South Pacific with Bola. Long may the tradition continue!

2 Links for you:


Rugby Clubs – what are they for?

(This article first appeared in the programme for Rotherham Titans v Hartpury in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 16/9/2017)


Twitter brings up lots of interesting links to articles and opinions about rugby, and one made me stop to consider what a rugby club is for. I grew up when playing rugby was for men only. As a non player, I have always seen clubs as a place to watch rugby, though the unfulfilled desire to play probably accounted for me joining the local rugby lads in a mixed hockey team for several seasons. Matches certainly resembled rugby at times, with sticks for added violence. A broken nose and a split shin bone finally put paid to my time with that team.

The piece I found was in an Irish publication; ‘The Village – Ireland’s Political & Cultural magazine’ and was entitled ‘Rugby surrendered its social benefits’ by Jim O’Callaghan, a former Leinster Rugby player & Dublin city councillor. He makes the point that rugby clubs originally formed for young men to participate in sport, but this has now changed so drastically that they are simply becoming places to watch rugby, played by an elite adult group. This has led, he believes, to ‘achievement and excellence, rather than participation and enjoyment’ dominating and driving the sport, and losing their social, community roots.

The RFU, the Lions and the All Blacks management teams were concerned enough about the drop off in young adult participation to hold a series of meetings in NZ during the Lions Tour to discuss this and we attended one at Wellington Football Club (yes, it is a rugby club but their name is WFC – go figure). The general feeling was that this will inevitably affect the cultural and club ethos of rugby, a game for all sizes and abilities, where the grass roots supply the eventual elite, if/when winning becomes everything. We can see it happening, with players having little contact with a proper rugby club, being spotted early on at school or in mini/juniors and hustled into the Premiership Academy system.

Hartpury mix

But as rugby follows the football route of ever greater wages for the elite, huge TV incomes and sponsorship, what is the effect on the grass roots of the sport? What is the local rugby club for?

At most of the ones I’ve been to recently, the ethos is still there for rugby to be played for enjoyment, with the aim of widening participation throughout the community. Sheffield Tigers, high up on Dore Moor, runs teams at different levels, complete with mini/juniors, Colts and Vets and their website emphasises that social rugby selection is ‘based on availability not ability’ with tours, social functions, including a ‘lively clubhouse with traditional rugby songs’!

Doncaster run their Championship team, and also work with schools and colleges through their Academy. Doncaster Phoenix play in a lower league, and DRFC support women’s rugby through the Demons, as well as Colts and mini/juniors.

Hartpury mix 2

Obviously Rotherham act as a club firmly based in its community, running teams at all these levels, and hoping to find the next John Dudley or Simon Bunting coming through from the grassroots sections right up to the Championship team. For me though, the growth of the O2 touch programme really shows that, for many people, the chance to play rugby is still a reason for coming along to a rugby club. I hope it continues to grow and involve people in the game as participants, not just spectators. Just wish it had been around when I was younger – might have saved the broken nose and very painful operation to repair it!

Original article:





Score 7 tries and lose a match?

(This article first appeared in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Richmond in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 30/9/2017)


Before last weekend, if someone had said we would score 7 tries away in Cornwall, I don’t think I would have believed them. But we did. Shame that they scored 8. When you score 7, YES 7, tries away from home and still only get one point, it doesn’t seem fair.

Almost every prediction on Rolling Maul had us down for a hiding 5pts to 0pts. I hoped for a bonus point, so why was I so disappointed when we got one? Because for a time in the second half, it really felt like we could come from behind and win the game. We were only 5pts behind, 52 – 47, and we were putting them under pressure. We could have won, or drawn the match, in the last 9 minutes.  But our defence on the line just couldn’t hold out, their rolling maul and scrum were better than ours by that point, and then the final 3pts for a penalty, as the whistle blew, just made it look worse than it really was.

A crazy, crazy game. 66 points in the first half, both sides with a bonus point for 4 tries before half time. End to end stuff, with great breaks, great running and skilful handling, but with awful defending from both sides. Missed tackles, passes thrown away to the opposition, people finding gaps where there really shouldn’t have been any, messed up line outs; you name it, both teams did it. Both coaches were tearing their (metaphorical) hair out on the touch line and the crowd was loving every minute of it.


Both teams gave everything in a hard, physical contest. One hit on Calla had most of the crowd wincing, and there were late hits, and people flattened without the ball as players flew into tackles to try and win the game. At the end, everyone looked exhausted. The crowd of 1244 shook their heads as if they couldn’t believe what they had just seen and I think many of the #ShedOnTour will be there on Titans Tuesday to check out exactly what they did see!

The stats for the weekend showed 445 points were scored across all the games. So our match accounted for over 40% of the points scored in the Championship! Have the new rules made such a difference, with more space and opportunity for the attacking teams, faster games with fewer scrum penalties, fewer bodies cluttering up the rucks? I don’t have the stats for that but I’m sure someone will be looking at them. Or is it just that on Sunday, both teams went out there determined to get their first win of the season, threw caution to the wind and just attacked every time they could? Neither team seemed to remember that defence is part of the game as well!

It was an amazing game, but one we could/should have won, if defence had been anywhere near as good as the attack. At the end of the match everyone needed to go and lie down in a darkened room to recover, or at least head to the bar for a drink.

Crazy Kernow weekend.

The joys (or not) of the B & I Cup


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!


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. 


We use this hashtag a lot; it means we always support the team we have, but more than that, we also support players who have been part of the Rotherham story.

Rotherham is a family club, running everything from mini-juniors, age level rugby, Colts, Vets, Ladies, and the amateur side, Rotherham Phoenix, with ex players involved at every level. It makes our club part of the community, part of the town, and helps it survive, especially at the bad times!

For this Christmas programme piece, I wanted to focus on the family story, especially one family, who have been part of Rotherham history, and show just far how the #TitansFamily tag goes.


Back in January 1998, Mike Umaga joined our club. He played his last game for us in May 2004, when we lost to Newcastle and were relegated from the Premiership; he managed to score a try (his 38th for the club) in that last match. Throughout his time with us, he was respected both on and off the field. Despite many rumours that he would persuade his brother Tana to come and join him at Rotherham, it never happened!


As a club, we don’t forget our ‘old boys’, and when another Umaga began to hit the rugby headlines, the Rotherham faithful started to take an interest, as many of us remembered the small boy running round Clifton Lane while his dad was on the pitch.

The New Zealand Herald, in April this year, seemed a bit put out that he was actually playing for England! I know the All-Blacks like to hoover up players from all over the South Pacific, but Jacob was born here and England needs players with his kind of talent. In June he moved from Leicester Academy up the M69 to Wasps, where another Rotherham ‘old boy’ was settling in. Did Lee Blackett have anything to do with this move? Who knows. Lee and Mike certainly were together at Rotherham. It is another little link with the #TitansFamily.

As with many young players on Premiership squads, he was sent out in October to Hinckley Rugby Club. Lucky Hinckley! He’s scored 30 points in 10 appearances, including 5 tries, up to the start of December. One of our ex players, up against him in a game, told me he’s fast, strong and very difficult to catch!


So at 18 years of age, he’s played U18, U19, and has been selected for the U20 for England in the 6 Nations, and the U20 Championship in Georgia in 2017.


I know from Twitter that his family are immensely proud of what he has achieved so far. Perhaps the fact that he has a set of Rugby followers up the M1 in Rotherham hasn’t filtered through to him yet, but we are there, looking at the results and smiling to see the name ‘Umaga’ listed yet again. We will follow his progress with interest, and if he ever finds Hinckley too easy, I’m sure he’d be welcomed back to Clifton Lane with open arms. Just have a word with Mr Blackett.

First published in the programme for the game Rotherham v Doncaster Knights 26th December 2016. Thanks to the Umaga family for their photo of Mike and Jacob.

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.


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.



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.


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.


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

Small margins matter – even more this season


We started the game against Nottingham at Lady Bay in the bottom half of the table. Not really in danger, but definitely nowhere near the top 4. Part of the way through the game, when news came in of Pirates win against Doncaster, the calculators were out and I’m sure someone came up with the statistic that, if we won with a bonus point, we could be in, or just outside, the top 4!

It has been a week for statistics. If you missed Titans Tuesday with Justin Burnell and Rhys Edwards, then the stats they gave us were fascinating. Here’s just a few of them:

Fascinating Stat #1

  • We have the best record in the League for penalties – we give away an average of 6 or 7 per game, which is way better than most other teams. I don’t think many people there could have predicted that.

Our discipline this year has appeared to be much better. Obviously if we cut out the penalties, then the opposition have fewer chances to kick to the corner and go for the dreaded rolling maul.

Fascinating Stat #2

  • We were asked to guess how many minutes of actual playing time happened in the game against Jersey. No one guessed correctly. There were 32 minutes of actual play, less than half a game! Apparently even in International games, they rarely achieve more than more than 45 minutes.

So how much time is lost to the endless scrum resets? On Twitter I seem to type ‘Scrum collapses. Reset’ so many times during a game that the predictive text almost does it for me. What is the answer – do referees really understand the scrum, and are they prepared to penalise the offenders for the errors? The ref on Sunday penalised Nottingham at almost a dozen scrums, yet the yellow card never appeared. Surely it should have done, to reward the dominance that Rotherham had at the set piece.

Fascinating Stat #3

  • They review EVERY aspect of the game. The players get points for their passing skills, even losing points for a pass that hits the body, rather than being into space to be caught. The slide showing this was too small to see exactly who was top, and who was bottom!

On Sunday, at Nottingham, I watched with a great deal of interest to see just how the skills sessions on passing were being put into practice on match days. They certainly seemed to be passing with greater accuracy and skill, arms out to pass and to catch, ball not hitting the body, and that’s the forwards as well as the backs.

Titans Tuesday usually points up something I’ve missed from the game, or teaches me about a technical aspect I didn’t know. On Tuesday Justin and Rhys also emphasised the youth and inexperience, at this level, of the majority of our squad. They will make mistakes, but they learn from them.

At Nottingham, this inexperience showed at the end; instead of hanging onto the ball, and their lead, they let Nottingham back in, to draw the game deep in added time. Nottingham celebrated as if they’d won. Rotherham looked like they had lost.

Round 10 games complete, it shows just how tight this league is: 6 points separate Nottingham in 4th from Jersey in 11th. One win, especially with a bonus point, can really change things. We just need to find a way to do that! Could it possibly be against London Irish, with their #Fascinating Stat of 10 wins from 10 games. Be nice, wouldn’t it?

First published in the programme for Rotherham v London Irish on 3rd December 2016

Kernow Bys Vicken *

Last weekend I spent Sunday (23/10/16) waving a St Piran’s flag ** and cheering on a Cornish team. Not something I’ve done before, and nothing whatsoever to do with rugby…. or perhaps that’s not entirely true…
The Amateur Swimming Association held their National County Championships in Sheffield, at Pond’s Forge, last weekend, with every county represented. 1200 young people, and their friends and families, screaming their heads off and supporting their team. I was there supporting Cornwall, specifically my nephew Ben Hallam, swimming for his county and achieving two PBs in the events he took part in. It was his first swim at National level, and you can’t ask for more than personal bests. Very, very proud aunt and uncle.

Hours of training have gone into this, from when he was very small, with a weekly swimming lesson, to 5 or 6 days a week in the pool, and competitions most weekends, now he’s older. I am in absolute awe of his commitment and dedication to his sport. His parents, like so many involved in supporting their offspring in competitive sport, also deserve a medal. The hours in a car, plus huge amounts of food, specialist gear for events and training – have you seen how much the Speedo stuff costs! – all this takes dedication from them as well.

The question comes; how good is he? Well, physically he fits the mould for a swimmer, well over 6 feet tall and only just 15. Huge feet make great flippers, big shoulders, long arms, endless stamina and a focus on his sport that I never had when I was his age. He’s learnt to deal with physical pain and setbacks very early on in life, such as breaking a collar bone when skiing with me a few years ago. I know how much it hurt but he never complained and even took up Dave Swift’s (Rotherham’s physio) advice that, ‘there’s nowt wrong with your legs, lad, so get on a bike’. He found an exercise bike and spent 6 weeks pounding that until he could swim again.

I did harbour the hope that Ben would get into playing rugby, rather than just enjoying watching it, as he’d make a great second row forward. But he’s clear about his goals, to swim at the highest level possible, and I hope that one day you’ll see him in a British set of Speedos, swimming for his country, and remember that his mad auntie wrote about him in a rugby programme. Rugby, swimming, any sport; you need the dedication I see in Ben, as well as the support from the clubs and volunteers who give up their weekends to run events like the Championships, not forgetting the parents, family and friends who travel the country to support and encourage them.


I only realised later that this piece would be in the programme for the Cornish Pirates game. Sorry lads, I won’t be waving St Piran’s flag or cheering you on; my loyalties lie with Roth. And you won’t get Ben’s support either for this particular game – he was born up here and Roth are his team; although if he ever gives up swimming and decides to be a second row forward, you can have first dibs on him.

* Cornwall For Ever
**  Patron saint of Cornwall



First published in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Cornish Pirates on Saturday 29th October 2016 (and we won with the last kick of the game!)

Rugby on top of the world

Back in 2002, we went to watch the Rugby 7’s at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. The sport has been part of the Games since 1998, and the day ended with New Zealand winning gold, Fiji the silver, and bronze for South Africa. Fairly predictable results, but still a fantastic day out, with thousands of crazy fans from all over the world – and it was sunny all day, unusual in Manchester apparently.


Looking back at this, after an epic debut in Rio for rugby as an Olympic sport, I can see that this day out had a serious effect on the way my life has gone, and how rugby has developed in the last 14 years. It set me off on volunteering in sport as, until I met some of the volunteers in Manchester, I had never considered working on events such as this. Only wish I’d started sooner.

In Manchester, it was rugby for men only. How things have changed in 14 years! Looking up the origins of women’s rugby was interesting:

The earliest record of women playing rugby occurred at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Ireland when Emily Valentine’s brothers formed the school’s first rugby team in 1884 of which she was a member and played her first game (and scored a try) in 1887. This made Emily Valentine the first official woman to play rugby.

The first documented women’s International was in Wales in December 1917, between Cardiff Ladies and Newport Ladies. Ireland and Wales beat England to getting women’s rugby started, as the WRFU wasn’t finally formed until 1987 in England, and the first Women’s Rugby World Cup was held in 1991 in Cardiff.

In Rio, where the 7’s game finally made it into the Olympics, rugby set the tournament alight from the very first game.


In contrast to the London Olympics in 2012 where the venues were packed, this was an Olympic Games where the crowds looked sparse. But for rugby they were large, noisy and enthusiastic. The skill levels were high and the passion and commitment from all the teams, male and female, showed the world the best elements of rugby, especially the sportsmanship. The bronze medal match for GB’s women was just one game too far for them, Canada the better team on the day, and for the GB men, the awesome display put on by Fiji showed just how thrilling this game can be. Such skill and athleticism from such big, big men.


The Titans too decided to join the 7’s party this season, with a new team entering some of the summer tournaments, and with plans to head for Dubai!


One interesting statistic from the Twitterverse showed the instant effect of putting Rugby on at the Olympics:

“Google searches for “women’s rugby” up by 5,880% in past week (Worldwide)”

Let’s hope the interest and enthusiasm continues, with the 7’s exposure bringing more people into the 15 a side game as well, as players and as spectators.

It is going to be an exciting season at Rotherham – the Titans have new players, new investors, new logo and a 7’s team to follow as well. As usual, the Titans fans approach the new season with optimism, good humour and true Yorkshire grit. I think it might be a really good year to be involved in rugby – positive thinking coming from a fantastic summer for our wonderful sport.


This article appeared in the programme for the Rotherham Titans v London Welsh game on Sunday 4th September 2016. Rotherham won 33 – 32!


A Rotherham Alphabet

A is for Abbeydale, Awards, Ashton Gate…

Abbeydale, Sheffield. Last game of the regular season. Not where we really wanted to play, but the sun shone, it looked like a good crowd and the result was brilliant. We first watched rugby there back in the 1980’s, and I hated the place. Biggest reason for that? They refused to let ladies in some areas of the clubhouse, and they certainly wouldn’t serve them at the bar. Men only. This was before leagues, Sheffield was one of the top teams in the country, and the likes of Rotherham never set foot on that pitch. We switched our allegiance to Rotherham when Richard Selkirk moved across and Roth began their fantastic climb up the new league structure. Roth finally got to play at Abbeydale, a cup competition, in a blizzard, which we won. In 2015, is it any better? Well they let me in to the bar, I could buy a drink, and Roth won. It was a good day.

Awards Night followed on Tuesday, with over 100 people packed into the Valley Room for a great evening with players, supporters and a few surprise guests. It was lovely to see Errie Claassens, one of the nicest guys ever to play for Roth, alongside Shrek, Hendrie Fourie, another legendary player from the past. Thanks to everyone at the Club for a wonderful night, especially for all the laughter and fun generated by Lee and the players. They really are a very special bunch. It is a shame we don’t have the facilities to showcase all our players, past and present, to a wider audience, to share the success that is Rotherham, with more people. In Bristol’s programme, it mentions that their Awards evening has space for 750!

Ashton Gate, Saturday, with Sky TV again – has any other club been on more than Roth this year? Since we were there last November, the place has changed enormously. The new stand is just about complete, seating going in and almost connected to the sides, creating a horseshoe around the pitch, with the ATYEO stand separate at the far end.

We were in front for so much of the game that I began to think my wish to win a game at Bristol just might come true. The boys played some brilliant rugby, against a team full of international/Lions players, and we were so proud of them. Bristol fans round us were impressed with the way we played attacking rugby. The fact that we came close to scoring a couple of other tries really made it feel even closer than a 12 point gap. Watching the game on TV the next day showed just how close we came to scoring, and emphasised that there is still everything to play for.

B is for #BlackettsBoys…..    

It has been a fabulous roller-coaster of a ride, supporting this team, and wherever we play next year, with whoever arrives as our coach, the last couple of seasons with Lee in charge will be a huge part of the Roth story for us to reminisce about in years to come, just like with Errie and Shrek. We will be watching Lee as he progresses to the next level with Wasps, just as we will follow the others leaving us this year. They can’t escape; they’re part of the #titansfamily.

(This piece was first published in the programme for Rotherham v Bristol, semi-final on Sunday 10th May 2015 – and we lost, but were not disgraced)

As for the rest of the alphabet – well there is all next season to look forward to…..It seems a long way off but can’t wait to see what the Roth journey brings next. A new coach, definitely. A new ground?