Category Archives: Richmond Rugby

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.

 

 

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)

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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.

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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 North/South Divide – is it inevitable?

 

The President of Richmond summed up his view of the Championship in his programme introduction for the Rotherham game on Saturday 24/10/16:

“Nigel Melville…. (for the RFU is)… conducting a review examining exactly what the Championship is for…..clubs outside London are worried that if there is no more central funding from the RFU, the Championship could become part time pro and based primarily in the South East…”

After battling for 4 hours to reach Richmond, cursing the traffic jams that seem to be an on-going part of life in London, we reflected on the schedule for the rest of the season. Between now and the New Year, there are three more days where we have to decide whether we can face over 8 hours in a car, to see 80 minutes of rugby. Almost 90 minutes to do the last 12 miles to the ground itself!

When we read the programme, the debate on the future direction of the Championship was raised again. Richmond decided, for well documented reasons, to keep their squad as part-time players this year, and avoid the crippling debts they feel full-time professional rugby can lead to in the Championship. This can work for them, and the other southern clubs, as London offers players the opportunity for well-paid jobs, and the chance to work alongside their training schedule. Sadly Rotherham doesn’t have the same job opportunities, and not just for rugby players looking for work. Part time rugby, alongside a well paid job might work financially for the south east, but not for us here ‘Ooop North’.

The ability of the part-time players at Richmond, to match the full-time skills and fitness of the other squads is something that will be an interesting part of how things play out this season. On Saturday they ‘threw the kitchen sink at us’ according to Justin; they have some players with obvious skills and a set of highly enthusiastic supporters. The step up from National One is always difficult; we will have to see if adding in the part-time element makes it even harder. I hope they stay around as they are a ‘rugby club in the traditional sense’, as their Chairman pointed out, and on Saturday the place was heaving with different teams, of all ages and abilities.

The debate on the Championship continued in The Rugby Paper on Sunday, with Mark Morgan, the Jersey Chairman, adding his opinion. He notes how his club have developed and supplied players to the Premiership, as have Rotherham and others, with the debate coming back to funding being an issue, to maintain a fully professional league. Coming from a team with some of the wealthiest people in the UK living on their doorstep, it shows that finance is an issue for every club.

So are we looking at a future where rugby at the top level is only played south of Watford? In the Premiership, we have Sale and Newcastle in the North, and neither team has been anywhere near the top of the division for a while. In National One Darlington Mowden Park are up there, but other northern clubs, such as Fylde, Blaydon and Macclesfield, are down at the bottom of the league, and the rest is dominated by teams from the southern half of the country.

As for us, we will turn the car south on the A1/M1 for a few more trips, and add on a bit more time so we can get a pie and a pint. It would be great if the whole Northern Powerhouse debate could include a bit more cash to keep the rugby flame alive north of Watford in the future. Might just have to drop a line to Nigel Melville.

 

This article was first published in the programme for Rotherham Titans v Yorkshire Carnegie (formerly known as Leeds) on Saturday 1st October 2016