Tag Archives: #rugbyunited

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!

 

 

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)

village

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: https://villagemagazine.ie/index.php/2015/08/rugby-surrendered-its-social-benefit/

 

 

 

 

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)

cornwall-2

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.

Pirates+v+Titans_5

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.

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

Fozzy & Louis.jpg

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. 

A weekend away in Cornwall

 

Down in Cornwall, Spring is just arriving. The trees aren’t quite turning green, but in the lanes, the first primroses and camellias are out and, despite the ankle turning mud down by Looe Bar, the snowdrops in the woods are beautiful. My family have lived down in Helston for the last 15 years, so the trip to Cornish Pirates is always one I put in the calendar as soon as the fixtures are published.

Driving down on Friday the sun was shining, the sea at Penzance was many shades of blue, and St Michael’s Mount looked wonderful in evening light. Started really well, our weekend in Cornwall.

The wifi connection let us watch young Mr Umaga kicking his points for England U20’s, on Friday night. My brother’s daft dog loved his treats, the niece and nephew liked their presents too; all was set fair for a good weekend.

Saturday was spent at the Leisure Centre in Penzance (after the very muddy dog walk) and we watched hundreds of kids, from tiny to giant, thrashing up and down the pool in the second weekend of the County Championships. Good job we were indoors, as the weather turned nasty. Was Cornwall trying to tell us something? We managed to find a tv to watch Scotland v Wales. Not a good day for the Welsh. My Scottish friends made sure I understood the significance of the result! Weekend not going so well.

Sport in Cornwall looked to be thriving due to the efforts of volunteers and parents prepared to spend ages sorting stuff for kids. I loved the fact that people brought knitting, crochet, films on iPads, big, thick novels, and even a tapestry, to while away the hours between races. And enormous amounts of food! The nephew did ok, not brilliant, but ok. He wasn’t happy with just ok, so after an enormous curry to replenish the lost energy, he retired to bed ready for a second day of competition up in Bodmin on Sunday.

The hope was there that Sunday was going to be the best day of the weekend – for the nephew and for Rotherham!

We woke to howling winds, spitting rain and the fear that it wasn’t going to be our day after all. My niece sensibly decided that a walk in the rain was not a good way to spend a Sunday, stayed in bed, and missed out on the 10’ waves off Sennen Cove, and wind that took your breath away. Bracing was the word; not even the craziest surfers were risking their necks in that sea. The hope was that the wind would die down before kick off at 3. No chance – Cornwall seemed out to get us!

The teams ran out into a gale; Rotherham had to fight against it all through the first half, and when they came out for the second half, the rain started as well. Torrential rain, blasting across the ground. We lost the match – check out the reports in the ‘Tizer for the detail as Mr Ricketts also enjoyed a weekend away in Cornwall.

Cornwall 2

The nephew returned from Bodmin with some PB times, qualification for Regional Finals, so we all headed for the pub. Not much to celebrate really, but overall the weekend felt positive. The team played much better than they did against Bedford – rolling maul tries still a nightmare for us to defend – there didn’t seem to be any more serious injuries and I got to spend time with my family. Spring really is just around the corner, and hopefully we can build on what was a much better performance in a soggy, windy, but very beautiful, Cornwall. Can’t wait to come back next year.

This piece was first published in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday 4th March 2017

Championship Top 4?

BG logo

At the start of the season, this is exactly what Justin and the boys were aiming for. He was quite open about it at the meetings with supporters, and in the press, despite having had to rebuild a team, from scratch, with boys coming in from mainly lower leagues. With just 3 home games to go, it is beginning to look like this isn’t going to happen. We sit closer to the bottom of the table than the top, and the run in to the end of the season isn’t exactly easy!

 

It wasn’t just Rotherham who were optimistic; in the press and in the discussions with fans from many clubs, it was acknowledged that this was one of the most closely contested Championships we had ever seen. At the start, at Richmond, their fans were simply looking for survival, based on their part-time squad and their lack of experience at this level. Their results lately seem to show they are learning quickly and could easily upset a few more teams before we finish. For almost everyone else, the dream was Top 4.

 

The arguments about the advantages for the relegated Premiership club would take up much more space than available, so we will leave it with the belief that London Irish would go straight back up. It doesn’t stop all the other teams wanting to beat them, and the play off system gives others in the Top 4 a chance to upset the plans for a swift return. Just ask Bristol – or possibly not, as it seems they may be back with us next year!

 

We have now played all of the current Top 4, and although it has seemed that one win this season can shoot you up the table, and a loss drag you back down, what do these teams have that we don’t? Well, a team of fit players for one! It is an attritional league, especially for a small squad like ours.

Looking at Irish, Doncaster, Leeds and Ealing – yes I know that Pirates, Scottish, Jersey would argue they could be in there too – they all have one or more standout players, who consistently rack up the points or hold things together.

 

With Irish, we didn’t see Topsy Ojo, they brought Cokanasiga instead! 6’4’’, 17st of class. And Tommy Bell, who can kick stuff from anywhere.

 

At Leeds, our old friend Buzza marshals them superbly from the back of the scrum, Ford can kick from anywhere and Elder, at full back, ripped us apart.

 

At Doncaster, wily Mr Quigley still manages to keep playing mind games in the scrum, Flockhart kicks from anywhere, and they have Latu Makaafi and Jack Ram to smash teams apart from the back row.

 

Ealing have their plastic pitch; yes I do think it makes a difference, but others will argue it doesn’t. They also have the wily Mark Bright at the back of the scrum and Penberthy to kick from anywhere.

 

What do we have at Rotherham to match? We don’t know if we have the players of class and influence as hardly anyone has had a full season playing! As for kickers, well there have been so many different ones that again, no one has had the opportunity to cement their place, despite doing a great job for a few games.

 

What we do have is a team that plays for each other, doesn’t give in when their backs are to the wall, and a real desire to get better and succeed. Maybe next season, they will get the chance to show what they can do, for 80 minutes each game, and for a full season, without injuries.

 

My hopes for the rest of this season; to end with some good rugby being played, for Justin to find us some more gems from the lower leagues for next year, and Mr Swift and his team to have some quiet days!

This was first published in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Bedford Blues on Saturday 18th February 2017  – so I guess I got the top 4 correct!

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!

4-logos

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. 

#TitansFamily

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.

mike-umaga

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!

mike-and-jacob

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!

jacob-1

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.

jacob-eng-kit

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.

Small margins matter – even more this season

nottingham

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