Tag Archives: #shedontour

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!

 

 

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

#Friday Night Lights at Bedford Blues

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

ps

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

One from last season that got ‘lost’ – A weekend with ‘Charming Betty’

 

First ever trip to Jersey for me, and it was brilliant – apart from the result of course. I seem to have said that phrase more than once this season so I thought I’d look back and try and find positives, rather than focus on bad stuff. Strangely that included a trip on the ‘Charming Betty’ – (see below)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We followed the tweets on Friday night to find out Rotherham couldn’t be relegated, as Moseley lost. It was a relief, but tinged with sadness as I really like the trips to Mose, apart from the awful game there this season leading to Mark Jones and the club deciding to go their separate ways. It was an awful match, up there with some of the worst I’ve been to in years of watching Roth. Bedford away this season, in the first half, also wasn’t great, but the come back in the second half showed that the boys could play good rugby, with the desire to put things right when they went wrong. We saw that determination in the team meeting after Moseley, led by Tom Holmes. A passionate and dedicated player, trying hard to explain what had gone wrong and how they were trying to put it right.

Away at Ealing in November was also another good memory from this season – brilliant running rugby, great tries and a team playing together with a high level of skill. I still can’t work out how we went from that to the low points, the losses that followed. Sometimes we were simply unlucky, other times it was the awful rolling maul that floored us, and I still believe we have been battered by injuries in a way that hasn’t helped, more this season than normal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As for Jersey and our trip on ‘Charming Betty’ – in case you’ve never done it, this amphibious vehicle takes people across to Elizabeth Castle in the bay at St Helier. Named by Sir Walter Raleigh in honour of the first Queen Elizabeth, it is a lovely way to spend a sunny morning before a rugby game. If the tide is right, you can walk to the island, but we travelled both ways on ‘Betty’. On the way there we were on wheels all the way but coming back the tide was in and things changed.

Thinking about our season, it’s been a bit like that return trip on ‘Betty’ – setting off, wheels firmly on the ground, knowing where we were going and feeling fairly safe. Half way across, the water suddenly started to pick ‘Betty’ up and drift her off the path. It felt a bit weird to say the least, especially as a different motor started up and we wallowed our way towards the shore, but not in a straight line.

Finally the wheels sort of found land, the motor changed back to a proper engine and we trundled our way back up the beach. It felt a lot like this season with Roth – started fine, went a bit adrift somewhere in the middle and looked like it might get seriously hairy, but finally the wheels hit the dry land and back on track.

CB

My hope for 2016/17 is to keep those wheels firmly on dry land and going forwards – I don’t like being adrift in a bus/boat, however ‘Charming’ it might be.

Pre season – long bus trips, yellow cards, plastic pitches, and old connections to the #titansfamily

loughborough whb

‘Where HISTORY Begins’ is the slogan used by Loughborough University and, seen through the eyes of my 13 year old nephew, it is an awesome, out of this world place, for anyone interested in sport. It is where he wants to be in 5 years time, after he finishes his A levels. We took him to look round in the week Roth went there to play their last pre season game. On our tour, of hockey pitches, cricket pitches, state of the art gyms, fitness centres, medical facilities, indoor and outdoor athletics tracks etc etc etc, our guide told us of another Rotherham link – the University is the base for Namibia for the Rugby World Cup, so another ex-Roth player will soon be training there – Tinus du Plessis – a great player, and a great guy too.

Tinus

We couldn’t make the game with Loughborough Students, but were kept up to date by the excellent Twitter feed, and could clearly imagine the action, as we’d been standing on their new £2 million plastic pitch just before they played there. What couldn’t we do with £2 million at Roth!

We did manage to get to Fylde. We’d last been there 16 years ago and both clubs have certainly come a long way. They were obviously delighted to have us there; it was a beautiful ground with excellent facilities, and passionate, hospitable, rugby people. There has been discussion on the forums about our pre season opponents this year, as last year we went off to the likes of Newcastle and Northampton, a real challenge for the team. Would  the quality of the opposition be a strong enough test this year?

London Scottish was always going to be  different, but the twitter feed seemed to show us doing well – until yellow cards were flying  and also a  certain Mr Bright was around to do what he does so well – tap down from a rolling maul.

With RWC pushing back the start of Premiership games, there obviously wasn’t the opportunity for a pre season like last year, so we can only hope that Mark Jones has seen enough from the long trips to Fylde and Scottish, and the late night at Loughborough, so that we are ready for Ealing.

As for the actual Cup – when it came to Roth, we were one of the few places where the public could actually come and see the trophy. I know the money that comes into the game from corporate sponsorship is important, but looking at the Trophy Tour, and not just in the Yorkshire area, many of the events were by invitation only, with no public access. Not the way to promote the game.

jps

Anyway, I’ve got tickets for Argentina/Namibia so I’m hoping that both JP Socino and Tinus du Plessis are playing that day. So far I’ve tracked down an Argentina shirt, but I’m still looking for a Namibia one – any offers out there?

Valentine’s Day – in romantic Worcester!

On t’interweb, last Saturday, Valentine’s Day, was a cartoon of a guy heading out, dressed for the rugby, leaving a card for his other half with the following rhyme:

Roses are red

Champagne is bubbly

Have a good day

I’m off to the rugby!

For me, a trip out to Worcester to watch Roth was a perfect recipe for Valentine’s Day; rugby, a pie and possibly a win!

But looking at Worcester’s record before the game, it was hard to see us getting anything out of a trip to Sixways.

Played Won    Lost   Pts For Pts Ag Try Bonus pts

14        13        1          537      198        12

Worcester are 3/4/5 in the top 10 try scorers with 79 tries (37 tries for Roth) and they’d put over 50 points past Nottingham the week before!

I’m sure some of the newspapers were dusting off the headlines, ready for a ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ but they didn’t get chance to use them; ‘televised mauling’ was the worst the Yorkshire Post came up with, and although the Star praised our ‘character and commitment’, and solid defence, they also used words like ‘thrashed’ and ‘badly beaten’. We had a much better day there back in 2003, watching Rob Thirlby score an epic try, but there have been many changes at Worcester since then.

The stadium itself is almost unrecognisable from those days, with an obvious level of money and investment that sets them apart, with Bristol, in this division. Talking to their supporters, there was none of the talk we heard everywhere at Bristol, about getting ready for promotion. If they don’t go up, they would be happy to consolidate in the Championship next year. They acknowledge they have a very young team, players with potential, a great academy side, and they understand Dean Ryan is building a team to survive at the next level, not just to go out and buy success. They are rightly proud that Penell had been selected by England Saxons, but they feel he won’t get in the full England squad due to playing in the Championship.

Their squad is huge – just looking through the programme at how many players are on their books shows they mean business. Charlie was on the bench, but neither Dan Sanderson or Ben Sowrey were in the squad. We stood with Ben for part of the game – he is desperate to be starting every week, but acknowledges that there are others who are playing well. He has a fight just for a place on the bench. He’s had 3 starts, and come on as sub 5 times. With 4 hookers in their main squad, and another one in their Academy, that is a lot of competition.

Our game against them at Roth showed how quick their backs were and what a fight it would be to come away with anything, so the result, in the end, wasn’t a surprise. It was good to see our team fighting until the end, and the scrum gave them a battle that their supporters commented on very favourably. Their supporters were also keen to know about Leinster, who they meet in the B&II semi final on 13th March. That is going to be one cracking game – the Leinster team is one of the best I have seen at Clifton Lane and, from what I saw on Saturday, Worcester will be matching them for pace and skill, just hope it might be on TV.

So, a reasonable pie, some good play from our team, and a loss. Oh well, perhaps we can get back to winning ways against Leeds.

As for a Valentine’s card, I never expected one of those!

worcs 2                                  worcs 1

And yes, Worcester played in pink, all in aid of a local children’s hospice.

(A version of this article first appeared in the programme for Rotherham v Yorkshire Carnegie on Saturday 21st February 2015)

A weekend in Plymouth – questions for discussion

Plymouth’s recent difficulties have been all over the rugby press and social media. Last week they finally avoided administration. That alone should have been a warning they would come at us, fired up with their success off the field. We won there last year, but I wasn’t convinced it would be an easy game, despite them being at the bottom of the table. And then there was the weather, and a bog, not a pitch!

I like going to Plymouth. It is a lovely place, great people and best of all, I get to see my family. My brother, his wife and kids live way, way down in Helston, so the chance to meet up in Plymouth for a long weekend always brings a smile to my face. We’d persuaded our newbie, Josh, to come along for the weekend. He’d been to Uni in Plymouth and fancied catching up with some friends, as well as enjoying the Shed On Tour.

Plymouth  2

Key questions from the weekend were:

How do you stop a rolling maul – legally?

This started before we got to the match. The nephew is playing regularly for his school and wanted to know what all the chat was about. He’s 13, size 10 feet, 5’9’’ already, typical second row material, but as yet his school haven’t tackled this in training! Google gives 46,000 answers, and I especially liked the comment:

When the perfect rolling maul is on the move it is almost impossible to stop. It is like discovering the secret of perpetual motion. You cannot tackle a player legally. You cannot get at the ball. There is not much of a front to drive against. The only option left is to…infringe.
http://www.therugbysite.com/blog/contributors/brendon-ratcliffe

Has Lee Blackett read all 46,000 results?  Probably.

It was clear in his mid-term review that, for him, it isn’t the maul itself that creates the problem, but the penalties we give, letting the opposition kick to the corner to set one up. Sunday’s Rugby Paper gave our penalty count against Plymouth as 9, a massive reduction on some previous games, but many of them were in positions to let the kick go straight into that danger zone close to our line. As to what the guys can do about it, once the opposition have the ball, well, they seem to be trying everything and sometimes it seems to work! The bog of a pitch, plus the huge forwards Plymouth have, didn’t help. Here’s to dry(er) pitches and fewer penalties in the danger zones!

Should you play with or against a wind?

We’ve had this in a couple of games, and since it hinges on who wins the toss, then perhaps decisions have been made for us! Standing at the side it felt windy, but when balls were kicked to touch, and some seemed to go backwards, we appreciated just how strong it was. Another problem to deal with when conditions seemed against us playing running rugby. The consensus in our gang was – play with it in the first half, take the advantage, who knows what might happen in the second half.

Can I persuade the nephew that rugby is better than swimming – especially when he’s such a good swimmer?

Easy answer – NO! Shame as I think he’s going to be perfect material for 2nd or back row.

Whoever nicked Josh’s coat, can we have it back please – and will he be joining #ShedOnTour again?

Difficult, as he has no idea which bar/club/venue he was in when it went missing in the early hours! Someone in Plymouth is a coat up, as well as their rugby club taking 5 points off us. Ah well. We’ll all be back on the road to Worcester.

plymouth 3

A version of this article first appeared in the match day programme for Rotherham v Jersey on Saturday 7th February.

A Friday night in Leeds…

(A version of this post appeared in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Cornish Pirates on Saturday 15th November 2014)

There have been so many trips to Headingley over the years, when the results just didn’t go our way. We were there the last time Roth won, back in 2007 and my other half was there for the Mike Umaga kick that won the game for Roth, probably 7 years before that. As an away game, it hasn’t been one to look forward to, and the weather on Friday didn’t hold out much hope for us having any success this time. Rain, wet ball, our history at Headingley, difficult for fans to get there on a Friday night; all reasons not to be optimistic. We set off without much hope for a change in fortune. We should have known better than to doubt this team and Lee Blackett.

Defensively it was a great game, you couldn’t fault the tackling, the bodies on the line, the determination to catch and snuff out any break through by Leeds. I shall continue to call them that as their own fans had no idea what to shout! We heard Carnegie, Yorkshire, Leeds and I’m sure a shout of ‘Come on Leicester‘ at one point.

Updating the family in Cornwall and friends who couldn’t make a Friday night was a bit tricky. There weren’t many scoring opportunities to tell them about. They were even texting me, asking if the game was on or off, as they hadn’t had any updates until 21 minutes into the match. That penalty from Jordan Davies was awesome. We were behind the posts he was kicking towards, and he was so far away – 53 m3tres apparently. The ball made it over the cross bar with space to spare. An amazing kick.

Apart from a text about Roth holding out on the line with a last ditch tackle from Curtis Wilson, and Davies getting sin binned, these were the only messages sent south from the first half. Not good, but the level of commitment and focus from the whole team was immense. It was clear that it was going to be a very different game to the high scoring stuff we have been seeing from Roth. James McKinney’s kick to make it 6 points early on in the second half, helped settle the nerves, and the longer it went on, the more confident we were that this team were just not going to let anyone through to score.

Eight messages in total was all I sent to the non-attendees. A long night for them, but at the ground time seemed to fly past. The report in the Yorkshire Post focused on Leeds shortcomings and their reporter described it as ‘turgid’ on Twitter. He obviously didn’t enjoy the game! I preferred Guy Williams report in The Star; he described Roth’s ‘outstanding defence’ and ‘amazing character’. Even The Rugby Paper noted that the Titans ‘stand tall’ – ironic considering how many people write off our team for their lack of size!

Stand tall they most certainly did; at no point did anyone back off a tackle or give up a chase.

Before the match there was a wonderful, atmospheric few minutes; the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy was acknowledged, the Last Post sounded, accompanied by explosions of fireworks from all around, and the crowd stood in silence. It was a very moving start to the evening.

I don’t know if this inspired our team to the hard fought win at a ground where we haven’t had a lot of success, but it certainly added to the poignant memories of a winter evening in Leeds. A great night – all of the #ShedOnTour were proud to be there.