Tuesday 24th April - 08:30
The review of our season will now be tomorrow. The boy has arrived already.
Couple of one liners......
Despair in the Hartley household as he is ruled out of the South Africa tour as his battle with the symptons of concussion persist.
Despair in the Armitage household as Steffon picks up a serious Achilles injury that could rule him out until 2019. Madness he was never considered as a solution to England's back row problems.
Jonathan Joseph joins the band of despondant brothers as his ankle injury rules him out of the South Africa tour.
Amongst the misery is joy. The Eyres family are celebrating young Becky's selection for Cardiff University Ladies and the chance to play in the cathedral now known as The Principality Stadium tomorrow. Good luck to her.
As a by-line to the above Jacqui sent me a text with the news. I responded with a text and she did likewise. A text that included a hilarious faux-pas that made me laugh out loud. You can ask her yourself when you see her.
Don't forget Sussex Under 20s v Essex Under 20s at Steel Cross on Saturday.
The Summer Ball tickets are selling fast. Book yours now.
Monday 23rd April - 08:30
That's the season done for many so let's have a look around the leagues and see where everyones finished up or about to finish up.
In our league we had a curate's egg of a season. Good in parts. Finishing 6th was in the end a good result. More on us later in the week. Of the other games played last weekend Aylesford Bulls finished in style beating Old Dunstonians 19-36. They are worthy champions. As you know Thanet Wanderers join them in London 2 South East next season. Bromley finished a very creditable 3rd place after beating Hastings & Bexhill 45-33. Sadly Folkestone v Sheppey was a HWO. Folkestone couldn't have saved themselves from the drop and with Sheppey having been relegated some time ago a HWO seemed inevitable. It shows the quality of the league and the unpredictable nature of the results that Folkestone go down with 47 points just 9 fewer than us in 6th spot.
Just two games in London 2 South East with Dover beating Beckenham and Deal & Betteshanger beating our good friends Charlton Park. The latter result pushes our other friends the Greenies down into 10th but safe from the drop. The big story in this league is Hove coming back from what seemed a losing position to beat Old Reigations in the play-off for promotion (thanks Liberty for the information). Hove join automatically promoted Dartfordians in London 1 South next season where they will encounter their local rivals Brighton.
Talking of play-offs sadly Uckfield came second to Vigo 31-17 in the play-off to join us in London 3 South East. Shame as another keenly contested local derby for us would have been great. On the other hand I should get to see my old mate and former colleague David Oliver, a Vigo stalwart, twice a season now.
In London 1 South it was the final round of fixtures. Brighton yet again featured in a high scoring game coming away from Tottonians with a win. Chichester were not so fortunate coming away from Sevenoaks with just a try bonus point. They still finish in 4th spot though. Maidstone beat old Colfeians but wasn't enough to save them from the drop. CS Rugby clinch automatic promotion with Medway making the play-offs where I think they will face Chingford.
Tunbridge Wells excellent run of form in London & SE Premier came to an end with a loss away at Shelford. 5th is a great result for them, I think so anyway, in this the toughest of leagues. Barnes secure the automatic promotion spot with Guernsey in the play-off against Bournemouth.
In the national leagues two excellent results for TJs away at Taunton Titans and Worthing away Barnstable. Both horrendously long journeys so coming away with wins must have made the trips back so much more enjoyable. With one game to go Cinderford are promoted and Chinnor make the play-offs.
The final machinations of promotion and relegation won't be known as there are some cross league complications to resolve, for example where do Barking drop into.
You'll be pleased to know Salisbury beat Marlow to end on a high but Bridgnorth came a cropper away at Peterborough Lions.
So it is Leinster vs Racing 92 in the Champions Cup final. The all Ireland dream final was scuppered when Racing 92 put on a masterclass performance in a stunning first half in Bordeaux. Munster fought back valiantly in the second but it was too little too late. The travelling support was amazing and despite the defeat it confirms what we already know and that is strength in depth is a source of pride and success for the Irish.
A quick word for Rob Horne who was stretchered off in the recent Saints game vs Leicester Tigers. He has been forced into retirement after suffering 'life changing' nerve damage to his right arm. Thankfully serious injuries of this nature are few and far between but it doesn't make it any easier when you read about them.
Talking of injury former Crowborough player Charlie Dagwell continues to make good progress after his triple leg break sustained playing for Hove against the Greenies. We wish him well.
Well done to all those who ran the London marathon. I got it slightly wrong in that our Matt Botterman ran the Brighton marathon the week before. He finished in a very creditable 5 hours and a few minutes.
Demands of the grandson permitting I will do a review of our season tomorrow.
Sunday 22nd April - 08:50
The scoreline does not in any way reflect the balance of the game yesterday against Thanet Wanderers. For a good 70 minutes we were arguably the better side and holding the whip hand. An unnecessary yellow card took us down to 14 men and the rest was history. Very controversial history though. We took the game to newly promoted Thanet and kept them under pressure for long periods. Sam Kisbee made his tell tale sniping runs. Gary Stevens made good yardage with ball in hand. Skipper Alex Purnell led from the front whilst his brother Freddie tackled anything that moved anywhere near him. Yet again Will Creasy showed what a prospect he is and with the steady heads of Nick Hill, Mark Rosier and Richard Tasker around him he featured strongly. Everyone of the 18 man squad played their part.
It wasn't all one way traffic and Thanet Wanderers showed why they have been promoted. They scored a couple of cracking tries with excellent quick hands through the back line, incisive running and outstanding off-loads. I was surprised however how shoddy some of their handling was. Balls flying into touch rather than to the man. Balls being fumbled when the simple pass was on. Their work at the ruck and maul was very good and they used their size and strength to good effect.
Some of our defensive work was excellent. Crunching tackles kept the hosts at bay. Last ditch tackles prevented scores. Despite an obvious size mismatch our ruck and maul was also very good when it needed to be. The fact we scored four tries highlights how well we played.
Let's get back to the last ten minutes. If across the season matches had finished on the 70 minute mark we would possibly have been in the promotion hunt. In this case being down a man didn't help and Thanet Wanderers used the extra man to good effect. We found ourselves on the back foot and had to put in some amazing backs to the wall defensive work to prevent further home scores. Thanet also helped by knocking on at the base of the scrum when the ball was over the line. The key moment game when their big flanker powered towards the line quite clearly dropping the ball before the line only for the referee to award a try. 'Borough were left scratching their heads at that one and to be very fair so were a couple of Thanet's long standing and loyal supporters. With only a minute to go Thanet scored another try, this time beautifully worked between backs and forwards with the wing eventually strolling into the space left when we ran out of defenders.
The boys felt dejected but the very young squad accepted the try bonus point and 6th spot in the league. We wish Thanet Wanderers good luck up in London 2 South East. We'll miss them .... but not the journey.
It was the clubs award night yesterday so the 1st XV got straight off the coach into clubhouse for a splendid evening of fun, good food, good company and recognition of the season's achievments. The 2s and Crows were well represented and quite rightly the award winners were applauded loudly. The club also recognised the work of Jacqui, Sandra and their teams and very graciously paid for the wine for the Friday Club table whose unstinting efforts were also recognised. Congratulations to Richard Tasker who not only picked up the 1st XV player of the year but also the 'Faithfuls' player of the year. Well done all and I'll reflect a little more on the season during the coming week.
There was one aspect of the evening that hacked me off royally. That was to find out that another Sussex club have tried to poach one of our upcoming youngsters. Call me naive but I find that sort of behaviour pretty unpalatable. The player in question is as loyal as they come and will be with us next season. Let's move on.
Elsewhere well done Cardif Blues. They now face Gloucester in Bilbao in the Challenge Cup final. I haven't seen it yet but I listened to much of it on the radio on the way home from Thanet and it was clear Leinster were simply ruthless in their dispatching of the Scarlets. One commentator who is not known for hyperbole or exaggeration stated that they might as well start engraving Leinster's name on the cup now.
Racing 92 v Munster this afternoon but I might enjoy the last days of summer before the weather turns back to winter.
Saturday 21st April - 08:30
A very busy day yesterday for me including the Friday Club hence no blog. The old duffers worked tirelessly to prepare the grounds for the summer maintenace schedule of seeding and feeding and now the grass is growing a lot of mowing was done too.
It is shame that the memorial game postponed from Christmas has had to be cancelled. This is one of the clubs important events remembering players, members and friends who have been taken from us often all too soon. The rearranged fixture vs Thanet Wanderers plus several other factors beyond the clubs control has meant the club couldn't raise two teams of sufficient quality to honour those who are no longer with us. It was felt cancelling was the more respectful option.
It was sad to learn of the passing of Graham Dagwell, father of Geoff and grandfather to Tom and Charlie. Graham's funeral is on Tuesday at T Wells crematorium. Our thoughts are and will be with the family at this time.
Like London buses you wait and wait and then two come along at the same time. The RFU has announced that Wasps Ashley Johnson has been suspended following a failed drugs test on 7th February. He awaits his fate.
Will he? Won't he? The New Zealand RU have said Brad Shields will not be made available for England's summer tour as he is contracted to the Hurricanes therefore by default funded by and committed to New Zealand until his contract expires at the end of the Super Rugby season. It's a bit of a mess and is in danger of making a mockery of rugby in general, England's selection policy and how the eligibility rules for international selection are applied.
Good news for Edinburgh as Cockerill extends his stay as supremo.
Newcastle's bubble was well and truly burst by Gloucester last night. The cherry and whites, hideous pink actually, were pretty dominant from start to finish with Newcastle looking lethargic in both attack and defence. Newcastle failed to take their chances when they came whereas the powerful Kingsholm outfit took theirs with aplomb. Gloucester now await the outcome of the Cardiff v Pau clash later today.
I understand despite a number of changes our boys are ready for their final bow of the season. Losing Chris Yates and the Main boys is a blow but those selected will give of their best and want to finish up on a high. Promoted Thanet Wanderers is a toughy to finish on and with a dry ground the boys from the 'Borough will be up against it. That said I am looking forward to it and am 100% certain none of our lads will leave anything out on the park.
Talking of leaving Arsene Wenger is on his toes at the end of the season. A marvellous servant to Arsenal and soccer in general. As Man Utd found when Sir Alex left Wenger will be a very tough act to follow.
Good luck to all those running in the London Marathon tomorrow, especially our very own Matt Botterman.
Thursday 19th April - 09:00
A number of people have voiced their concern about the ARU's willingness to turn a blind eye to Israel Folau's recent comments about gays. Several prominent All Blacks and Nigel Owens are amongst those concerned about the absence of some form of sanction. As I said yesterday I strongly believe we need to be able to speak freely even when our views and opinions might be controversial and go against the sensitivities of others. I find it more than frustrating when I read about bleedin hearts and snowflakes who want to tear down Nelson's column and statues of Cecil Rhodes and rip up all mention of our colonial past. It is history. You cannot and should not change history. You should learn from it. In the Folau case it is a clash between deeply and genuinely held religious beliefs and homophobia. Folau is entitled to his beliefs but I for one feel the ARU should have sanctioned him in someway because of the tone of the message.
Another issue that in my very humble opinion is being swept under the carpet is drugs in our game. Yorkshire Carnegies Brandon Staples has been banned for four years after testing positive for the use of three steroids. Top flight rugby is a very lucrative career with those at the top of the game making a lot of money. The incentive to cheat to get to the top is stronger than ever and performance enhancing drugs are one of those 'cheats'. It is not only at the top of our game but I am certain there are those at all levels who take banned substances to improve their physique. The authorities don't have the resource to police it and so it will continue, much in the same way that when the restrictions on payments to players come into force clubs will find 'cheats' to get around the rules.
I fear at all levels of the game recreational drugs are a bigger issue. At a recent county meeting this came up. Clubs need to be vigilant and have clear and enforceable policies about drugs and drug use. The issue is how drugs negatively affect people's lives and their communities.
World Rugby still, as far as I know haven't ruled on the Belgium v Spain fiasco yet. They have taken decisive action against several Spanish players who verbally and physically abused the officials, especially the referee post match. Five players have quite rightly received lengthy bans. Spain can still qualify for RWC 2019 through the play-off process but as that means meeting Samoa at some point I can't see them getting through.
If I was a player aspiring to play for England I would be asking myself why should I bother. It appears Eddie Jones has been given the ok to pick New Zealand born, currently New Zealand based flanker Brad Shields. He qualifies through the fact that his parents are both English so no problem with that except the RFU have been adamant that in order to support the domestic game players must be based in England to qualify for selection. Yes I know Shields is joining Wasps but that is not until after the Super Rugby season which doesn't finish until AFTER the South Africa tour which Shields could feature in. England's back row are rubbish so you can understand why they have done a Toryesque u-turn but what about the boy Armitage in France. He continues to be a form player but is constantly overlooked because he is not playing in England.
Lots in the news especially about the Windrush debacle. I support fully the notion that people who are illegal immigrants should be packed up and sent home and whilst here shouldn't be given £1 of our tax revenue. The case about the Albanian women who fraudulently managed to receive £72,000 worth of NHS treatment is a disgrace. The Windrush situation is different and has been so badly handled it should be on the stage as a good old fashioned comic farce. Heads should roll, but of course they won't.
It comes as no surprise that the Russians, not the Syrians have used delaying tactics to prevent the chemical inspectors visiting Douma. I'll be so bold as to suggest that by the time they enter the city the clean up operation will be completed.
Before I go don't forget to book your seat on the coach to Thanet Wanderers. The wonderful Ian Geering is your man.
Wednesday 18th April - 08:45
Spring has finally arrived just as the kids have gone back to school after the Easter break. Hey ho. Back to normal yesterday for us too with it being a Tuesday it meant the grandson and swimming. Marvellous.
The weekend for many, including Crowborough RFC, is about fullfilling your commitments and ending the season on a high. Nothing really to play for other than pride. Newly promoted Thanet Wanderers will be a real tough one, especially as we will be a much changed side from last week's narrow defeat at the hands of Old Willies.
For some it is a massive weekend with European glory beckoning. The big game, with all due respect to Munster and Racing 92 has to be Leinster vs Scarlets. Two form sides, excluding last weekend when squads were rested ahead of this weekend, going head to head. You have to put your money on Leinster. They are a well drilled and very experienced squad packed with internationals and they have the benefit of home advantage, which as we all know shouldn't be the case but is. Wayne Pivac, more and more touted as the next Wales coach is a wiley old fox and with Stephen Jones his chief strategist don't write the men from West Wales off too soon. The Scarlets are also packed with internationals and as Leinster know to their cost are not afraid of the Aviva and have pulled a rabbit out of the hat before. I still go Leinster and as I will be in Thanet the SKY box is already primed to record this one.
Racing 92 will also be a cracker. Munster have time and time again proven their European credentials and often on foreign soil. Racing have chosen Bordeaux as their neutral venue which will not scare the Irishmen one little bit. Racing 92 played pretty much a full side last Sunday. Munster on the other hand rested a couple of their squad and played on Friday, it was in South Africa though and whilst the time zone is pretty much the same the travel is horrendous. I should know I used to it regularly when I was working. I go Munster and therefore an all Ireland final in Bilbao.
Two tasty match-ups await in the Challenge Cup. Cardiff vs Pau in Cardiff on the AGP. The Blues have found some form of late and I think they will be too strong for the French outfit. The French have traditionally seen the Challenge Cup as an inconvenience but with Section Paloise (Pau) lanquishing mid-table in the Top 14 this is their chance of cup glory for this season.
It all kicks off on Friday with Gloucester v Newcastle. Despite recent form and Newcastle's win at Kingsholm just a few weeks ago I can't see beyond a cherry & white victory. This will be a good one to watch and to get the weekend started. BT Sport me thinks.
In other news Bristol Rugby are rebranding themselves as the Bristol Bears. It is the fashionable thing to do and of course another way to make money with all that new and lovely Bear merchandise. I think it is a great idea but I am certain there will be murmourings of discontent among the old farts. Crowborough RFC soon to become The Steelers. I doubt it but who knows???
Not sure I can get my head around why Israel Folau is not being punished for his outburst the other week. I am all for freedom of speech and I think we are too quick to clamp down on things we don't want to hear but are valid points, criticisms, comments etc. Folau's remarks struck me as being over the line of acceptability. Hey ho, what do I know.
Four idiots will appear in court for alleged abuse of Eddie Jones. Again it is fair to criticise Jones, and quite frankly after fifth in this seasons 6 Nations he deserves criticism but aggressive and vile verbal abuse is unacceptable.
Cornish Pirates are desperate to move to a new ground. They need to grow their support base and only a new ground with modern facilities will give them any chance of ever being able to dine at the top table, especially if the calls for a ring-fenced elite game becomes more than just a few silly old buggers like me saying it is a good idea. The 'stop press' news is that they have been granted the funding and a £14.3m new home near Truro is to become a reality.
What is equally real is Jonathan Joseph's absence from England's tour of South Africa. His ankle injury suffered last Sunday against Sarries will keep him out. Dylan is also increasingly likely to be an absentee.
RWC 2019 is on its way. In a move that has dismayed the rugby mad New Zealand public most of the matches will only be available via pay TV. A real shame and another example of how money is blinding the game from the bigger long term picture.
Before I go can I urge you to read the touching tribute to Peter Howells who recently passed away. He was before my time but I know he was a much loved founding father of mini rugby at Crowborough with many of his family making a contribution on and off the field in later years. It is in the 'news' section of this website.
Monday 16th April - 08:30
Based on the Bard's report it seems clear we played well in parts and were the architects of our own donwfall in others against Old Willies. It sounds as if we had the upper hand for long periods scoring some good tries, defended well when we didn't have the ball but gifted Old Willies possession at crucial moments when simple get out of defence strategies were required. Old Williamsonians currently sit a very creditable 3rd in the table but their campaign is over. Both Bromley and Old Dunstonians can leapfrog them but with ODs playing champions Ayelsford Bulls I can see those Old Willies finishing 4th.
Aylesford Bulls are champions after a fine away win at Folkestone 25-17. Folkestone can't get any higher than 10th so now wait nervously to see how the trickle down and flow up from the respective leagues pan out. It is likely they are doomed to relegation sadly. Sheppey and Crawley have been awaiting the trap door for some time and played out a 7-3 away win to Crawley. Park House's amazing run of form continued and a 33-17 home victory over Hastings & Bexhill put any lingering doubts about promotion to bed. Depsite the loss H&B are also safe. The topsy turvy season of both Lewes and Bromley continued with Lewes enjoying a 57-31 home win in this one. Lewes are in 6th on the same points as us in 7th. If we can get anything out of Thanet Wanderers away we will swap positions. Thanet are promoted (as I don't think there is a play-off at this level) and proved that they were worthy of this honour by a very comfortable 57-12 win over Old Dunstonians. Only pride to play for next week in the four remaining games.
No games in Sussex 1A or 1B so let's go straight to London 2 South East. Dartfordians have been champions for some weeks now with Barking having been relegated for even longer. It came as no surprise therefore that Dartfordians came away from Barking with a 73-7 win in the bag. Well done to Hove who have secured the all important play-off spot after cruising past Deal & Betteshanger 54-9. In the all Sussex clash Horsham travelled home from Haywards Heath with the honours after a 10-26 win. Horsham finish a very creditable 4th behind Charlton Park who beat Old Alleynians. H&W RFC had the uneviable journey home from Dover after a 41-13 defeat. They can be overtaken by Deal and due to the vagueries of the leagues could be at risk of the drop. I doubt it and hope not. The drop does beckon for Pulborough who lost at home to Beckenham 26-68. Sorry to see Pulborough join us but on the bright side there are some cracking pre-match lunch pubs between the two 'Boroughs.
Upwards and onwards. It was a good weekend for the two Sussex clubs with Brighton beating our friends the Oaks 32-23 and Chichester beating Old Colfeians 37-34. CS Rugby are promoted with Medway and Havant vying for the play-off spot. Advantage Medway with them at home to bottom placed Gravesend in their final game. Without knowing how the waterfall down and flow up works I can't be certain but I am guessing Maidstone can see the trap door open below them. They were well and truly beaten by Medway 59-0.
In the Premier London & SE league our friends from St Marks are on a roll beating Guildford 24-21 and will finish in 5th with one game to go. Promotion is going to the wire with it currently being advantage Barnes. They face a tricky away trip to Sutton & Epsom whilst second place Guernsey host relegated Towcestrians.
In the ether of the National Leagues both Worthing and TJs enjoyed wins over Henley and Redruth respectively. They both sit in the warmth and comfort of mid-table. Cinderford are a win away from promotion. The toughness of this league is epitomised by the travel. Redruth to Tonbridge. Wow!
Rounding up the tour of the leagues well done Bridgnorth beating Old Halesonians and Salisbury for coming home from Grove with a win.
Before we move on we now know that Hove will host Old Reigatians in their play-off fixture and Uckfield have a very tricky trip to my old mate David Oliver's club Vigo in theirs. Those games are slated for next week.
Weren't Bath awful and Sarries excellent yesterday. With the exception of Welshmen Aled Brew and the outstanding Taulupe Faletau Bath were pretty ordinary. On the other hand Saracens played with a steely determination and took their chances (and gifts) with both hands. Six tries is a testament to how one-sided it was. Bath are on the slide and the fact they have signed Jamie Roberts for next season indicates to me they are not only on the slide they have lost their way.
Exeter on the other hand are looking onwards and ever upwards as their march to a second title continues. London Irish soon to be relegated suffered a heavy defeat leaving them on the precipice and Exeter with a home play-off spot.
As expected Jackson and Olding leave Ulster and as it stands are struggling to find a club for next season. Silly buggers the pair of them. You reap what you sew.
Well done Man City for winning the Premiership. Well done Ricciardo for winning the Chinese Gran Prix. Well done Mourihno for being an arrogant so-and-so and a rubbish manager for Manchester Utd.
A busy week ahead for Theresa Maybe who will face intense scrutiny and criticism for her approval of action against Assad's odious regime.
Corbynov on the other hand will continue to be Russia's puppet. The fact he is still not willing to condemn Russia for their role in the Salisbury poisoning nor the Syria gas attack beggers belief.
With Britain fearing an intense and sustained cyber attack by Russia The Daily Star leads with the comforting news it will be quite sunny and hot here by the end of the week.