Category Archives: NottinghamRugby

The big question – The Lions Tour – is it worth the money?

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(This article was first published in the programme for Rotherham Titans v Nottingham in the Greene King IPA Championship on their opening game of the 2017/18 season on Sunday 3/9/2017)

Simple answer; if you get the chance to go next time, do it. You’ve got 12 years to save up!

We were lucky enough to get to New Zealand to follow the British & Irish Lions. We were wet, cold, blasted by wind and ended up so full of germs that a hospital visit had to be arranged. They really did say ‘Can we have your credit card details’ before they would offer any treatment. We wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world.

So, to start off our new, hopeful 17/18 season, I thought I’d do the Top 10 of a NZ B&I Lions Tour, to encourage you to save up for the next one, in 2029!

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  1. Rugby – we won – well, technically it was 1 game each and a draw, but believe me, on that last night in Auckland, it FELT like a win. The NZ supporters had all gone, there were thousands of the red horde celebrating with the team and we certainly looked happier than they did. The country is rugby nuts. People told us that but we didn’t quite realise how crazy they are about the sport. Even the customs guys wanted to discuss it as soon as we landed. Rugby dominates every conversation, in every town, city, village. Brilliant.
  2. The country and landscape of NZ – hot springs, geysers, sea and rivers everywhere, weird landscapes that made Geography teacher friends green with envy, just so, so beautiful. Even earthquake tracking apps are sort of eerily fascinating! People told us it was beautiful; when your jaw drops at the view 100 times a day, you realise how right they were.
  3. Lions Tours are full of epic nights out. Celebrating the win in Wellington made our wedding anniversary the best ever. We were both like drowned rats after the game, and my shoes never did dry properly, but an epic night, alongside another soggy one in Rotorua.
  4. Maori culture – we sort of knew it was part of NZ, but it underpins every aspect of life there. The legends and stories, the music, art, links to the natural world, all combine to make it an intense spiritual experience to visit their land. Their own rugby team provided the scariest Haka I have ever seen, and it really does mean ‘we want to kill and eat all our enemies’!
  5. Wine – even though I don’t drink, the number of vineyards, and the range and quality of the wine is exceptional, I am reliably informed by the rest of our travelling crew. They loved having a designated driver and NZ even gave me a new non-alcoholic favourite drink, L&P.
  6. Beer – see 5 – the microbrewery trend is growing.
  7. Food – NZ lamb really was gorgeous, as was the coffee. They love their coffee, and they like it strong. Helped with the jet lag.
  8. Houses – since it is such a mountainous area, they build houses clinging to cliff sides, and on hills, even just on stilts. Some incredible buildings. Go figure how that all works with earthquakes!
  9. Horses – everywhere! Race tracks in the middle of towns, farms and stables all over the country and some of the most beautiful places to ride out. Just a shame we went in the soggy winter! (I realise this may not encourage everyone, but I’m a horse nut as well as rugby…)
  10. New rugby friends – The Jerry Collins Rugby Club at Porirua and especially Tepora and Patsy – 2 rugby playing ladies who I’d love to see again.

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Have I convinced you? Check out rothshirtontour.wordpress.com for more detail and pictures, then join us in 2029?

 

Not the best season, but we still need to say ‘Thank You’

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Fozzy and Big Louis McGowan – and yes, Fozzy is standing on a box!

We met up with some old friends in Jersey. One was Louis McGowan, one of the Rotherham greats, long since moved on, but fondly remembered, not just for rugby but for his dedication to projects like the reading scheme in schools. As a club, we keep an eye out for our ‘old boys’; we enjoy meeting up with people like Tamps and McKinney in Jersey, and lots of others this year, around most of the Championship. If they get the chance to move on to higher leagues, we take pride in that too. For me, a great joy this year is to see Buzza off to Newcastle. He’s probably played longer for Leeds than he ever did for us, but he’s still a Rotherham lad, and not just because he comes from the town. Rotherham ‘own’ their players; take pride in them long after they move on. 

 

The picture above, of Fozzy, one of the club stalwarts, who deals with the dirty kit, the messy end of the game, made me think about how many people need our thanks this year, and not just those on the pitch.

 

First though, thank you to all the players; injured, battered, bruised, more so than ever this season; thank you for putting in the hours of training, going out on the pitch and trying to keep this team going. It has been one of the toughest seasons I can remember (even more than in the Premiership years), but for each and every one of you who has put on a Rotherham shirt, you will always be part of the Titans Family.

 

They’ve kept going when all around them players were falling to injury, getting battered and bruised but not giving up. This spirit was summed up for me on Saturday in Jersey, when Millar came off with blood pouring from his nose. He’s a young lad who hasn’t been with us for very long, but his attitude was typically Rotherham. It took Doc a good while to stop the bleeding, assess it (probably broken) and yet he went back on and played most of the rest of the game. Seriously tough, serious respect to him. 

 

I have also loved seeing the boys adapt to the problems this season; Charlie Maddison, still learning his trade as hooker, also standing in admirably in the back row, tackling, scavenging, making breaks. Never happy losing either! Players having to cover other positions, but not complaining. The attitude summed up by tough nut Toby Williams – his interview after the Pirates game was a classic, seriously grumpy face, brief, basic answers, and the attitude that we lost, so what is there to say that’s positive! A great player to put up in front of the media – and I’m reliably informed he wasn’t happy about it! 

 

The list of injuries this season has been quite remarkable – we have never had a season like it. Even when they came back, the gremlins struck again and many didn’t spend long on the pitch. The record surely goes to Charlie Foley. Out for months then 30 minutes on the pitch and off again. Difficult as it is for fans, for the players it must have been devastating. 

 

Finally thanks must go to Dave Swift and his team; I have no idea how they have coped this year. The queue for treatment must have seemed never ending, but they have managed to put out a team each week, to battle it out against the odds.

 

To those who are leaving us this year, we wish you all the best. To those staying with us, here is hoping that next year isn’t quite the same as this one!

 

Thank you from all the fans. #TitansFamily. 

 

This piece first appeared in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Nottingham on Saturday 25th March 2017, our last home game of the 2016-17 season. 

Small margins matter – even more this season

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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

Nottingham and The Bay – Mosquitoes and Maseratis

We’ve seen Nottingham play for many years, going way back to when they were down at their old ground at Beeston, with players like Dusty Hare and Brian Moore. I remember there was one interesting day when Rob Andrew missed so many kicks at goal that he was taken off early – not the best kicker I’ve seen, as one was straight in front of the posts! I liked their old ground, two separate clubhouses, trains rumbling past and the atmosphere of a proper rugby club. Their move to Meadow Lane was another in the list of clubs ‘sharing’ with football teams. I haven’t been to any of them where I’ve felt it was a good move, where rugby was the first priority. Might be different when Mr Blackett gets to Wasps at the Ricoh? We were very happy NOT to be going to Meadow Lane last Friday; such an awful, soulless place, no atmosphere, no feeling of anything to do with rugby. The Bay was going to be our second new venue this season (Ashton Gate for Bristol). We were hoping that it might be a signal that the trend towards sharing football stadiums was perhaps being halted. Possibly that in our division at least, the idea of rugby as a club, with roots in the community and the people involved, was being damaged by the soulless venues, with a few hundred people rattling round in a stadium built to hold the thousands the authorities say we must be able to accommodate. For those who didn’t make it to Nottingham, this is what we thought of The Bay: They have a nice marquee, with a bar, and space for corporate clients, and if the cars are anything to go by, some of them have serious money. I don’t think I’ve seen a Maserati at Clifton Lane yet. For those with less cash, there was a burger van and a stall selling good coffee. At the centre of the various pitches was a clubhouse where the players changed, but we didn’t get into that, although I think our VPs did. Seats were two covered temporary blocks, and the rest of us were on rubber matting wedged round the pitch. The mozzies were evil until the sun went down, and I was glad it was a nice night. In the rain, the cold and the wind, it will feel very different.

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As for the rugby, a game of 2 halves; the ref seemed to like our scrum for the first half, to the point of binning their prop, and then not like it at all in the second, WHY? Our defence was most impressive, and there were some flashes of attacking brilliance. Tom Barrett had a huge load on his shoulders to come in and take over from James McKinney. It was good to see James there supporting the lads, sporting a wicked looking leg brace. All the best for a full recovery, James.  Ali Birch had to step in after Jack Preece was ill, and for most of the night it was solid Roth defence, stopping their maul, stopping their line breaks, especially when we were down to 14. We couldn’t see what Reider did for a yellow card but suspect it was to do with a rolling maul on the line. The lads never gave up, chased everything and it finally fell right between Scanlon, Davies and Cooke. So The Bay – a small club house, temporary stands, a marquee and a burger van. NOT a football ground. Much better.

Can we please have something of the same to play with in Rotherham, to build from, if the Cricket Club don’t want us at Clifton Lane any more?

Oh, and we’re in the play-offs. Again!

First published in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v London Scottish at Abbeydale Sports Ground, Sheffield (don’t ask) on Saturday 25th April 2015