Monday 2nd Jan - 10:45
A VERY Happy New Year to you all. I hope the New Year celebrations went well and have kicked 2017 off in the way you wanted. We certainly have had a good start to the year.
2017, the year of the Lions. Anyway before all that there is plenty of rugby to be played.
Wasps beat Newcastle as expected BUT not by anywhere near as many as I had expected. They do stay top as Saracens only just beat a dogged Leicester at 'Fortress Welford Road' yesterday. George North made a winning comeback as his Saints beat Gloucester by the smallest of margins.
Well done Bristol. A second win, this time away at Sale. Tom Varndell lead the charge and is now the leading Premiership try scorer. The win wasn't enough to take them off the bottom as Worcster beat Quins.
The two Welsh derbies went the way of form but both sound dour affairs. More on these when I have watched them.
Leinster v Ulster was a one-sided affair but highlighted why the Irish national side punches above its weight. The IRFU dictate rigidly when players must be rested. This benefits the national side greatly but can disadvantage the regions as they have key players warming their backside in the stands during crucial games. Ulster were clearly well below full strength on Saturday.
Last night I enjoyed Toulon vs Racing 92. Not a sparkling affair but enjoyable nonetheless. Romain Poite was not at his best I felt and yet again I wondered how these new 'contact with the head' guidelines will be implemented. I also smiled when Poite had to resort to English to rebuke a group of players as there wasn't a Frenchman amongst them.
Tuilagi limps off at Welford Road and out of England's training camp. Are his playing days numbered??
Finally what a comeback win for Exeter. Looking dead and buried they fought back for a fine win over Bath. Is Rob Baxter the next England coach when Jones leaves after RWC2019?
The terrible events in Istanbul is not a great way to start the new year. I really don't know what to say when this was done in the name of religion and as a protest to the Western way of life. A way of life where women are equal, there is freedom of speech and in the main all are free to enjoy life to the fullest. This as opposed to living in the dark ages where women are treated worse than animals and freedoms to have a varied life style are non-existent.
Well done the RMT still striking over the untenable. Well done Corbyn for standing to applaud a man, the ASLEF leader, whose aim is to keep us in the 19th century and preventing the hardworking masses from having an efficient transport system. Tossers.
Finally, if you think I am miserable devil for whingeing about 'foreign aid' then consider this: St Helena, the remote island in the Atlantic has a runway that is totally unusable, paid for by us, and the main UK supermarkets have been given millions to use with their suppliers. These are the same supermarkets who screw suppliers to the wall and make plenty of profit without government aid.
Friday 30th December - 10:30
Just back from Heathrow. Collected my friend and neighbour. A) I am knackered having left at 05:15 B) the weather was pretty dire. The health warning is don't drive tired and be careful in the fog.
Newcastle hosts Wasps tonight. Whilst the Falcons have improved recently Wasps will be way too strong. Bath v Exeter looks good tomorrow but my picks of the weekend are Gloucester v Saints in the Aviva, the two Welsh derbies, the two Irish derbies. Not sure what I'll get to watch yet.
I did finally get around to watching Cardiff Blues vs the Dragons. What an amazing first half. What a crock of shite the second half was. For me the game confirmed the view that from Jan 3rd the referees task will be much more difficult. Ben Whitehouse got his knickers in a twist on several occasions. Jonathan Davies and Martyn Williams on commentary were both scathing of the new guidelines and appalled at what they saw as a dumbing down of the game by focussing on the hot topic of concussion. There were two yellow cards neither of which were dangerous BUT a hideous late tackle which was VERY dangerous went without censure. Hey Ho!
Mrs Bleater received her tax form for the year April 15 to April 16. What struck me was the 'Foreign Aid' contribution from her tax was actually quite small but still too high in my opinion. What horrified me was the amount of tax that goes on 'Welfare'. Those in genuine need should be helped, and helped effectively, and fully. Those who are milking the system should be hounded and made to pay back the money STOLEN from you and I. If they can't pay it back then get them out on the streets cleaning the litter or other such jobs worthy of the phrase 'payback time'. Whilst slightly tongue in cheek a good Crowborough man from the North East is often told by his mates when he goes home 'they'll buy the drinks because HE'S WORKING!'. A very sad state of affairs.
Too tired for more today. Must go and browse through The Gruaniad for some advice on being less of a big mouth, opinionated tosser and more of a lovey dovey sensitive soul happy to turn a blind eye to the wrongs of society....... like benefit cheats!!!!
Thursday 29th December - 09:45
What a splendid day yesterday. Bleater's annual (extended) family Christmas get together in Kettering. A real laugh but a tough journey through patchy fog and freezing temperatures. If you are travelling be careful out there.
What a difference between two games. Ospreys vs Scarlets, a tense affair like two water buffalo fighting over the rights to mate with the best looking female in the herd. Hit after hit, no straying too far from your opponent and not wanting to take any chances in case the opponent blind sides you with a killer blow. Still a pretty enjoyable game to watch with some markers for Lions selection being put down. Liam Williams was great but Alun-Wyn Jones was head and shoulders above anyone else on the field. He stays fit he plays in New Zealand and possibly as captain.
The second half of the Quins vs Gloucester game was great. End to end stuff with the ball going wide with imgainative and incisive back play. Quickness of thought and deed was top drawer. The cherry and white fightback was brilliant and they were unlucky not to snatch a late, and possibly deserved win.
In both cases it was great to see both stadiums full, and full of genuine rugby people not the Hooray Henrys or the corporate free-loaders who watch one game a season and even then without the most basic knowledge of the laws.
Phil Davies is to join Worcester on a short term contract.
Chris Ashton is back for Saracens but any England ambitions are well and truly over.
Johnny Sexton on the other hand could return soon with his Irish place secure and a place on the plane to New Zealand likely.
Sir Bradley Wiggins retires. Our most decorated Olympian but sadly an Olympian under the drug spotlight. Let us hope nothing untoward is found.
Lots in the news to comment on. An irate commuter manhandles two children who had their feet on the seats of a tube train. Manhandling kids is NOT acceptable BUT these kids were with a parent and the parent did nothing to stop them. This is what is wrong with the world today. Parental responsibility is down the toilet.
A man goes into Tesco and a Muslim checkout operator refuses to sell him alcohol because it is against her religion. If her religion precludes her from dealing with alcohol then she is in the WRONG job. Tesco should not have allowed this to happen and the womnen should be removed from that role. Another example of what is wrong with this country. If this was Tesco Jeddah then fine but it IS NOT. We should respect others views and religions but not allow the 'tail to wag the dog' which is what happens all too often.
The actor Steve Martin has been forced to remove a 'tweet' about Carrie Fisher because it was sexist. 'When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well'. What utter nonsense. Yes, it is on the edge but a nice tribute nonetheless that should be taken at face value so let's not let the politically correct police rule our lives.
Jeremy Corbyn goes on air to send a message to our troops. This is a guy who has voiced support for the IRA, who would cut military spending to zero and would applaud North Korea for their social policies. Tosser. Thankfully the backlash has been swift and cutting.
Finally the RMT are to strike on the Underground due to the closure of ticket offices. I have a small degree of sympathy with this argument but no-one is losing their job and the staff are too be deployed in consumer facing roles on concourses and platforms. This is another battle about keeping overpaid workers in roles that are less and less in need and preventing business from moving forward. A significant proportion of people will be ordering hundreds of pounds worth of goods online. Managing a ticket machine should be easy. There of course will be times when overseas travellers or the elderly or the less able will need help. As long as a nice TfL employee is on hand to help this should not be an issue. At the main hubs a ticket office might be needed but come on, not everywhere. I wonder if Mike 'Loadsa' Cash when he goes to the supermarket prefers to queue at a checkout with a person doing the work rather than speeding quickly through the self scan checkout.
Tuesday 27th December - 10:15
Well, that's it all done for another year. The Big Man came and went. Another pair of new slippers....... which are super comfy. Now for worshiping at the alter of The Saint of the New Year Sale. 50% off and no matter how much you've griped about money being tight and it's crisis after crisis there is still money for the bargains. Anyway.......
The Friday Club lunch at The Cross kicked things off nicely for me. What a great bunch of guys, and gals, 'cos Sandra joined us, and Jacqui was in our hearts. Then Friday night it was off to the Social Club for the get together of ostensibly another bunch of grumpy old, and not so old, men. Revelation after revelation. The wonderful Steve Edwards has come out of the closet now he's retired......... he's WELSH, yes Steve was born in Cardiff, or Caerdydd. One of the boyos now. The other revelation was a sister of a famous England player, who shall remain nameless was in the club. Can't go into details for fear of being dragged out into the street and flogged to within an inch of my life but she was a right royal......
Thanks to Milgi Norman, Welsh to his core, for organising the night and to Trevor, Welsh to his core, for the grub. Excellent fun, top drawer hangover.
The Big Day was spent with The Bard and his gorgeous child bride. A truly wonderful way to spend Christmas day along with The Cotons, former 1st XV captain of a yesteryear. The world has well and truly been put to rights.
What a cracking game of rugby: Wasps vs Bath. Some amazing skills to behold, some wonderful support play and excellent defence when required. Christian Wade was superb and his solo try just sublime. Bath stuck at it and scored a couple of great tries too. This was the best advert for our game for a while. Obviously the early concussion to Frank Halai taking the gloss off things but 26,000 bums on seats led to a great atmosphere. Saracens still ride high but Wasps with Haskell due to return look a force to be reckoned with.
Well done Bristol. A first league win of the season gives hope of redemption from the drop. Worcester could now be the team standing on the precipice. Another dangerous tackle in the air results in a red card. This time Tusi Pisi on Worcester's Jamie Shillock. Not sure how to solve this one. Paddy O'Fez made a good suggestion that players must have their feet on the ground when fielding a kick. This prevents being tackled in the air. It would however remove the spectacle of players achieving great feats of athletisism.
Another splendid game last night; Munster vs Leinster, wonderfully refereed by Mr Edwards' fellow countryman Nigel Owens. Again some cracking rugby in front of a full house. Leinster were lucky the defeat wasn't more substantial. You can see why Irish rugby is in such a good place.
The Blues vs Dragons game went to the Blues. This will be watched before the Ospreys host the Scarlets this afternoon.
Never have I more eagerly awaited a rule change than the one that comes into force on Jan 3rd. It isn't a wait full of excitement, it is one of concern but also of the unknown. Having watched two amazing games this weekend but with lots and lots and lots of contact with the head I really cannot see how the referees have a hope in hell of managing this new law. I hope I am wrong but I fear the penalty count will escalate to unacceptable levels, we'll have three, four, five players in the bin at any given time and all too often it will be the player with the ball that has caused the contact with the head. Time will tell.
The deaths of Rick Parfitt and George Michael has rocked the music world.
The RMT, during this season of goodwill, announce yet more strikes, this time on the Underground. Be under NO illusion that despite what Loadsa Cash (remember he earns well in excess of £120k p.a.) says his actions and those of his union are political. The man is a stain on society.
The loss of the Alexandrov Ensemble, known more commonly as the Red Army Band/Choir is a sad loss. I have been lucky to have seen them perform live twice, once in Moscow. They stand proudly alongside the best military bands in the world. May their souls rest in peace.
Finally, and I might have mis-read it, but this country of ours spends a staggering £37m on disability benefits. I am sure many, many, many of the recipients need and deserve every penny of help we can give them. However the 'food for thought' point is this £37m is spread across just 5 million claimants. You do the maths (as the advert says). Just staggering!!!! I bet there are also plenty of cheats out there milking the system. Find them and shame them for their crime .....because it is a crime is what I say in this the season of goodwill to all (honest) men...... and of course women .... and those of transgender ....... and the Welsh.
Thursday 22nd December - 11:00
Just a couple of things to look at this morning.
Dr Barry O'Driscoll has gone on record to say 'Rugby Union authorities are "experimenting on players' brains" by failing to address the concussion issue'. Concussion is a MAJOR concern and I personally believe the RFU are ahead of the curve versus many other sports. That doesn't mean they or us can rest on our laurels. We must remain vigilant and always take the 'safe' option with every head injury no matter how slight it might seem.
Where I do agree with him is we should change the ruling on HIA. If a player comes off he should stay off. From what I have read concussion doesn't always manifest itself straight away.
Cardiff's George Earle and Quins Mat Luamanu will sit out the next few weeks as their recent trips to see the headmaster has resulted in lengthy spells of detention. It really is hacking me off when I go on to read that Earles is South African and Luamanu a New Zealander. I guess both Cardif and Harlequins will wheel out their next set of overseas players to replace them. By the way anyone who thinks my comments on overseas players is racist then you can go 4!3( 0$$. It is about giving British youngsters the chance to grow and then hopefully get the opportunity to play international rugby. This will protect the future of our grass roots game we so love.
Tuilagi is back for Leicester but is rulling out any early return to the England fold.
Interesting story on bbc.co.uk about Andrew Coombs. Coombs was injured in April 2015 and forced to retire 14 months later. Up until recently Newport Gwent Dragons, via the clubs medical insurance, have covered his bills, this despite them having no legal obligation to do so. This is another minefield where the fffffnnnn injury lawyers might be sniffing around and thus bringing our great game into doubt. The question is when does a club's obligation end and how do players and clubs protect themselves from escalating health costs if a major injury is sustained. I don't know. For the record Coombs is a regular pundit on BBC Sport Wales and S4C so he isn't completely 'on his uppers'.
Some decent rugby over the festive period. Wasps v Bath and Exeter v Leicester catch the eye but for me the traditional Christmas period Welsh derbies are 'must watch'. Blues v Dragons on Boxing day and Ospreys v Scarlets 24 hours later. I remember as a spotty teenager going down to Rodney Parade to watch the Black & Ambers take on Cardiff. Cardiff were royalty with Gareth Edwards and Barry John in the side whilst Newport were the Plebians hoping to spoil the aristocrats party.
As Christmas starts in Bleater's household today at 2pm when Bleater will be joining the Friday Club for some festive cheer at The Cross this is the last blog before the big day. Can I wish you and all your family and friends a wonderful Christmas.
Back on Dec 27th
Wednesday 21st December - 09:30
It seems it is Sale who are interested in George Ford but I bet Toulon have an eye on developments. Sale must be flush with cash at the moment what with the Denny Solomona case looming. Steve Diamond defends his club's stance in the row with Castleford. Time will tell.
Eddie Jones' comments about Dylan letting himself, his club and his country down could indicate his place as England captain are in doubt, which in turn could mean his position in the team could also be at risk. Whilst Warren Gatland has spoken positively about Dylan's situation you can guarantee that being left out of the England set up will change that view.
George North may return to action with Northampton Saints on Friday. I am certain with all the flak Saints have taken over this matter they will be whiter than white with regards to the concussion protocol. I am no expert on this subject but it feels a little quick for him to be returning. If he plays and suffers any further concussion then it is possible his career will be over.
In the same article Saints defend their selection of last weekend in the Champions Cup. I agree that they are entitled to use the squad they registered prior to the start of the season but I stick by my view that as English clubs were at the forefront of the tournament changes so they have a moral obligation to field the strongest team.
Her Majesty The Queen steps down as patron of the RFU. I was slightly taken aback when Prince Harry was announced as the new patron. In the light of English rugby's desire to bring in overseas players I had expected the King of Tonga to be the new patron.
The mighty James Horwill extends his stay at Quins until 2020.
Wow! A step in the right direction. France, under Bernard Laporte, have announced they will no longer select players for the national team who don't have French passports. This pre-empts the rule changes being considered about eligibility via residency. At last a tiny bit of progress.
The terrible atrocity in Berlin is the dominant story in all the papers. I have picked up on a story however that first hit the news a few weeks ago; the poppy and the fact FIFA have taken exception to the four home countries wearing it, or carrying out ceremonies before recent World Cup qualifiers. This is the same CORRUPT and INEPT FIFA who have been at the centre of more financial scandals than any other sports body. The wearing of a poppy is a mark of respect to those who have given their lives in battle so we can enjoy the freedoms we have now. We should tell FIFA where they can stick their decision to fine the four home countries and it isn't where they stick all their financial bungs.
Whilst many watch crap programmes such as the soaps or the rubbish talent shows etc I like the documentary style shows such as 'Nothing to Declare' or 'Police Interceptors' or my favourite 'Aircraft Investigation'. I recently watched the Aussie version of 'Nothing to Declare' followed by the UK version. We in the UK are a bunch of muppets. The Aussies find illegal immigrants, hold them then deport them. We take them to the police station, book them then release them to appear at a later date. We then wonder why they fail to report back and are treated as absconders. Hey Ho!
Tuesday 20th December - 09:00
I don't know about you but I am getting fed up with every politician under the sun using the word 'crisis' to exaggerate their point. The 'food bank crisis'. The 'social care crisis'. The 'immigration crisis'. None of these are worthy of the tag 'crisis'. They most certainly are matters of some importance which do need our attention. The situation in Aleppo is a crisis. Thousands of innocent civilains dead, many more starving, and no end to the fighting in sight. Yes, that is a crisis, so let's put things into perspective.
Yet another horrendous act of terrorism. This time in Berlin. In the name of what I ask? The horror is magnified when you consider that Germany (and the German people) has been one of the most open countries to refugees, especially Muslim's. As we worry about what shopping is left to do, let's spare a thought for those affected by this latest atrocity.
Ok to rugby matters..........
The Denny Solomona case is lead story on bbc.co.uk with concerns about the integrity of the game and the potential impact for the future. My view is the player and his slime ball agent signed a contract with Castleford and unless huge reparations are paid by both player and said slug then the contract should be honoured. If not then contracts are worthless. If that is proven to be the case then clubs should be allowed to sack players who underperform without fear of them being hit with large compensation bills. It must work both ways.
Sale are already in the spotlight and the concussion case will hit the courts soon. Two huge judgements against them might leave them in a parlous position financially. Me, I sincerely hope the concussion case goes in Sale's favour and is thrown out but I would like to see Castleford Tigers win theirs, if for no other reason than sticking two fingers up to the slug Andy Clark.
Northampton could be in trouble for fielding a weakened squad last weekend against Leinster. On the one hand, as a fan paying large sums to go to the game I would feel cheated. On the other hand clubs like Northampton have big squads for exactly that reason; to rotate players in order to protect burn out and to prioritise tournaments. Tough call. If forced to get off the fence I would say Northampton were wrong to do what they did. They, along with all Aviva clubs, kicked up an enormous fuss and rewrote the competition rules to their advantage. They get big bucks from the TV companies so field the best team available........ or give the money back!!!
As an aside I see they have signed Canada prop Jake Ilnicki. Not only are they playing weakened teams they are playing teams full of non English qualified second string players.
Wasps have been stung by the admission that the ref got it wrong and Connacht shouldn't have had the chance of the lineout and hence the ability to score the last gasp try. I'll be honest, I thought the rule had changed and they could opt for the lineout (or scrum). A classic example of the referee is 'always right even when he's wrong'. Move on. I am certain that the lawyers are already flexing their quills if Wasps don't qualify.
Despite the rumours Gatland will honour his contract and take Wales to Japan for RWC 2019.
George Ford might leave Bath at the end of the season. Toulon the destination?????
Food banks......... are they just another opportunity for no-good, bone idle, benefit scroungers to get something for nothing or are they genuinely needed? Not for me to say but when I read someone has said we need one in Crowborough I think I know the answer.
The Post Office dispute. Are you supporting the campaign to keep unprofitable and under-used branches open? If yes, then I assume you are happy for money that could go to the NHS be diverted to fund the loss making operations, or of course you can pay more tax.
Finally, Foreign Aid. This system is totally broken and hideously corrupt. We have people in care who need more support. There are people on the bread line and need our support. The hospitals and police and fire services are underfunded so why the .... are we giving millions to spurious organisations overseas?????
Please let there be more rugby news tomorrow.
Monday 19th December - 09:00
Having mulled over our situation at the bottom of the table I remain resolute in the view that it is NOT because of any lack of effort by the boys who pull on the shirt to represent CRFC. Not every singer can be Adele or Tom Jones, nor every #10 Dan Carter or Johnny Wilkinson, nor every arsehole Mike 'Loadsa' Cash, so right now all we can ask is 'give your very best and if that falls short still hold your head high'.
It comes as no surprise that Medway remain unbeaten at the top, now 12 points clear after an easy enough home win against Deal & Betteshanger. OCs got their show back on the road with a fine win over Charlton Park. Beckenham beat Bromley and Dartfordians came away from Old Alleynians with a win to reamin 3rd and 4th in the table. In the all Sussex affair Hove left Horsham with a narrow win in a high scoring 28-32 match up. Hove, Horsham and The Greenies sit 6th, 7th, 8th.
Sussex 1 is something of an embarressment with Hellingly have an HWO over Horsham II, Uckfield beating Brighton II 0-60, Crawley travelling home from Hove II with a win and Burgess Hill beating Seaford. Crawley stay top.
Moving up into London 3 South East Thanet Wanderers stay top after beating Sheppey. In the all Sussex affairs the home sides triumphed with Haywards Heath beating Pulborough and Lewes beating Eastbourne. In the other fixtures Folkestone, Aylesford Bull, and Park House all enjoyed home wins. Ashford are rooted to the bottom. Pulborough and Lewes lead the chase behind Thanet Wanderers.
In London 1 South Sidcup, Havant and Tunbridge Wells remain as they were last week with all three enjoying wins. Havant overcame Brighton at home and TWells travelled back from Sevenoaks with a smile on their face after this Kent derby. Like us Gosport & Fareham will need a miracle to avoid the drop with an unenviable 14 losses from 14 games.
In the ether of National League 3 London TJs remain top after a narrow win over Wetscombe Park. Big spenders vs big spenders, Harry Sansbury vs Tommy Nicol, Crowborough boys through and through!!! Chichester lost at home to Guernsey, albeit narrowly. I hope the visitors got home through the fog.
For the sake of completeness Worthing lost at Barnes, Bridgnorth beat Syston at their place and Salisbury lost at home to Ivybridge. I cannot believe how far these teams have to travel but that's a comment for another day.
In the European Champions Cup wow! Scarlets beat Toulon albeit thanks to a last minute miss by Leigh Halfpenny. The Scarlets started well and could easily have been out of sight early on. A great game. As an aside I did smile when I read about Mike Ford saying Halfpenny shouldn't be thinking about Wales selection in his considerations about staying in France he should think about Toulon making him a better player. What a load of rubbish. Think about the money, money and more money!!!
In the other games Clermont Auvergne were simply too good for Ulster, and Saracens kept up their fine run going away at Sale. I watched the Clermont game and watched the tackle area in particular. The amount of contact with the head was very high, and guess what, a lot of it caused by the ball carrier driving low into the tackler. Good luck to all referees managing that from Jan 3rd.
Much to look at later in the week: Connacht's last minute try that shouldn't have been, Richard Cockerill under pressure, Northampton under the microscope for fielding a weakened team.
Well done Andy Murray. BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
The papers are full of the impending strikes; baggage handlers, BA cabin crew, Post Office staff, and of course the rail unions. A job is no longer for life people. Terms of employment change, get on with it. Technology moves on, adopt it. You have to cut your cloth accordingly. 700,000 Poles have come to the UK and most have found jobs, found homes, created businesses and have intergrated themselves into UK society. Why then does the rail unions think their people shouldn't have to face up to the reality of the modern world and should be able to keep their cushy, high paid jobs for ever.
As I was preparing lunch yesterday I listened to Pinears Politics on 5 Live. Mike 'Loadsa' Cash was a guest. Two things struck me. He stated the only person who can speak for the RMT is the General Secretary, basically him. That means that the President of the RMT's recent comments about bringing the Government down were not representative of the RMTs views. So a) is Cash going to sack his President, and b) is Cash a power crazed meglomaniac? The second thing was he went on at length about the dispute with Southern being about 'safety'. Why doesn't he be honest and say it is about protecting jobs and stopping Southern having the flexibility to move staff around. If he did he might get more support. Yesterday he used a number of accidents as examples of safety. I checked these out and some were caused by driver negligence, and drivers of trains with guards thus shooting his argument down in flames. The man is an anarchist who wants us to go back to the dark ages and live like the Soviets of the 1950s; bread queues, the ruling parties becoming the new bourgeoisie, and the country being morally and financially bankrupt. Happy days!!!
Sunday 18th December - 07:30
Yes, the grandchildren are staying. Yes, its only 06:30 as I start pounding the keys. C'est la vie n'est pas??
There is a song that has the line: 'It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas' within it. Well at Steel Cross yesterday that is exactly the sentiment. Just over a 100 people enjoyed a great Christmas lunch and some excellent pre-match banter. Amongst the throng were guests from Heathfield & Waldron, and three guests from the British Legion. The latter all in their 90's and with VERY, VERY proud memories for the masses to be in awe of. Jacqui, Sandra and team did an amazing job - THANK YOU.
For me personally it was nice to catch up with some old friends, and some old adversaries from The Greenies, except that Dave Robertshaw played for Eastbourne when were trotting out onto the field in our short shorts.
As the game kicked off I felt like a character from James Herbert's 1975 novel The Fog. A thick mist rolled in to envelope the pitch bringing with it an eerie sense of quiet, and whilst the sun did its best to illuminate proceedings the sizeable crowd were left guessing as to what was happening on the field. The Greenies were on the board within a couple of minutes of the start, which didn't portend well with 'Borough having shipped many points in previous games. Who scored, how the score was made and where on the field it was scored remains a mystery.
I think it is fair to say the men from Heathfield & Waldron started much the better but we stuck at it. For long periods we battered their line (I think) but unlike our guests we couldn't finish things off when it mattered. H&WRFC took their chances and whilst the fog prevented any meaningful understanding of the nuances of the game it seemed a keenly fought contest. The Greenies deserved the win but our boys can be proud of their efforts. With the relegation trap door looming not one of the men in red let their heads drop and not one threw in the towel. They can be proud of that.
Can I wish all at H&WRFC and those at Steel Cross a Merry Christmas and a great new year. If Santa could bring us a little luck and some players back from injury that would be good too.
As a footnote to the game Crowborough's Head Coach Richard Siggs announced his resignation. The pressure of work as a custody sergeant in Brighton has meant Richard's availability will be even more limited than it has been recently. Richard has brought a structure to our coaching throughout the club, has been passionate about our youth development, and brought a discipline to our game through in-depth analysis that certainly last season helped us avoid the drop. The club has already thanked him for his contribution but I'd like to add mine here.
The 2s travelled to Eastbourne where they came second but by all accounts it was good game and the boys gave of their best.
Europe took centre stage for the big boys. Glasgow's decisive victory over Racing 92 got the weekend off to a flier. This a great result for the Scots but Racing might have had one eye on the lucrative Top 14 as their chances of progressing to the knock out stages already looked slim. Fortress Welford Road saw Leicester sneak past Munster at the death to keep their faint hopes of getting out of the group alive. What a great game of rugby, and an amazing finish with Connacht snatching victory over Wasps with the clock well into the red. What is going on at Northampton. 60-13 to Leinster is a drubbing.
Scarlets v Toulon and Clermont Auvergne v Ulster stand out from today's games.
Talking of Toulon rumours abound that Leigh Halfpenny has been offered £750,000 per season to stay in France. Madness!!!!! Mad to be offering that amount of money. Mad for him not to accept it. He will still be eligible to play for Wales if he stays.
Staying in France there is much talk about the rumoured take over of Gloucester by Mohed Altrad, the owner of Montpellier. For Gloucester the injection of cash he would bring would be most welcome. For the authorities having two clubs in the same competition owned by one man brings a whole load of complications. Montpellier by the way are the South African Barbarians of rugby with the bulk of their squad and their coach Jake White coming from the rainbow nation.
Martin Castrgiovanni hangs up his boots after 15 years of rugby and 119 Italy caps. Well done sir. Enjoy your retirement.
Alex King joins the Welsh set up as backs attack coach to support Rob Howley. Interesting move. By the way it seems that Warren Gatland won't return to Wales after The Lions tour. It is strongly suggested he will stay at home in New Zealand.
The papers are full of The Strictly result. Me, I couldn't give a damn. Surprise, surprise secret papers reveal the truth behind the unrest on the railways; toppling the Tory Government. We all knew that anyway. They want to have 'I've got no strings to hold me up' Jezza in power so they can make him dance to their tune.
Must go. The kids want their breakfast...... BUT it's not 07:30 yet!!!!!
Thursday 15th December - 09:30
Ok, Ok, Ok!!! I am a plonker. Of course my Lions #13 would be Jonathan Joseph not Jamie Jospeh. At least I didn't write, for those old enough to remember members of Maggie's cabinet, Keith Joseph.
So, Dylan gets a six week ban. Fortuitous that it means he's available for the 6 Nations but it doesn't necessarily mean he will play. The panel decided on a 'mid range' tarriff of five weeks, plus two weeks for his previous poor record and a one week discount for pleading guilty. All that means six weeks watching from the stands. By the way that is the standard disciplinary formula meaning Dylan hasn't been treated any differently to any other player.
There is an excellent piece in today's Gruaniad by Robert Kitson saying Dylan is one 'thuggish act away from career oblivion'. It is well worth reading.
It dovetails Dylan's indiscretion with World Rugby's announcement that from 3rd Jan '17 any contact with the head, whether accidental or deliberate will now be punishable as part of a zero-tolerance campaign. Basically the head is a 'no-go zone' in order to limit injuries. I applaud the initiative BUT it will be a refereeing nightmare. I cite just one example: the player driving into a tackle with his head lowered. What is the tackler meant to do. Behave like a matador and wave him through as there is no way to tackle a player in this position without (the risk of) contact with the head. All too often we see players ducking low into the tackle and this in many instances is the cause of head contact. Because the ruck is a mess with hardly any players on their feet this is another area where referees may find the team they penalise have been hard done by because of the body positions of the opposition is set in such away as to prevent any contact, or risk of contact, with the head. As I say I applaud the fact player safety is being considered as the No1 priority but I fear this is a minefield for referees.
James Davies gets a three week ban for his behaviour last Saturday. I think he is a lucky boy and could have faced a longer ban. Again the disciplinary formula is there for all to see and it has been followed to the letter.
England announce their Autumn '17 schedule with tests against Australia ... again, Argentina .... again, and Samoa. Just the three tests this time around. Mr McCall will be happy.
Wales suffer a blow ahead of the 6 Nations as evergreen prop forward and Welsh icon: Gethin Jenkins is ruled out with a ruptured bicep muscle.
Kieren Read, New Zealand captain, is rumoured to have agreed a $1m NZD deal with the NZRFU. This is part of a bigger package to keep the best talent 'at home' as the lure of big bucks in Europe is a very attractive proposition.
The rail trauma continues but at least there is some 'jaw - jaw' and not 'war - war'. ASLEF's hypocrisy was laid bare yesterday when it was proven they had already agreed, some five years ago, to driver only operated trains. Maybe that is why they are now around the table. The sense of justice came however when Mike 'Loadsa' Cash was refused entry to the talks. The irony of him being refused access to something is great, and the fact he whinged like a spolit child makes it so much the sweeter. We should deny him access to his bank, supermarket, petrol station etc, etc to see how he likes.
None of the above is important quite frankly when you read about Aleppo. As most of us bow to the retail gods in pursuit of Christmas cheer, forgetting of course that Christmas has nothing to do with retail spending but everything to do with the birth of Jesus, we should take a moment to reflect on man's inhumanity to man. It is unbelievable that this can be going on in the 21st century.
Wednesday 14th December - 10:20
As soon has I hit 'save' yesterday the Denny Solomona story hit the web pages. My positivity shot to pieces as a New Zealander who played for Samoa joins Sale. I guess if he has been in the UK long enough he will be England rugby union qualified on residency already. It makes a mockery of the system and makes me wonder why any kid, or parent of a kid would sacrifice as much as they do in the vain hope of making it into top flight rugby. The sad part is the kids who fall by the wayside often don't return to their local clubs they are lost to the game forever.
The bit in the bbc.co.uk article that made me even more disillusioned with our game is that Castleford, quite rightly, are suing Solomona for breach of contract, but also suing his agent. Agents. Now there is a description that sits alongside Injury Lawyers and Mike Cash in the lexicon of people who slime their way through this land with their vested interest and money their only priority. Rugby gets more like soccer every day, and sadly it gets more like soccer with the bad parts to the fore; clubs dominating over country, teams full of overpaid foreign players, agents sliming their way around the periphery causing mayhem. It will end in tears.
Ian Ritchie backs Dylan to keep the England captaincy and Gatland hasn't ruled him out either. Big calls both. Those of us who Dylan know off the field he is a absolute gent, on the field he is a competitor, a leader, a talisman. We also know that in today's sensitive environment with concussion and other aspects of our game in the spotlight the game has an obligation to walk the talk. I still expect a lengthy ban and therefore consequences for his England place and captaincy.
The Davies brothers make the news. Jonathan making a welcome return for Scarlets this weekend (possibly). His brother James facing a lengthy ban for his appalling behaviour in the game against Toulon. There is absolutely no place for foul and abusive language towards match officials. The Scarlets have gone as far as to review his contract they are so appalled and embarrassed by his actions.
I really can't be bothered to dissect the fact that Worcester have signed USA forward Joe Taufete and Bristol have signed Tongan Siale Piutau. This is a case of Q.E.D. me thinks.
Another Scotsman, actually a Kiwi on the Scottish coaching team rules himself out of being involved with The Lions. Jason O'Halloran says 'No!'
Talking of Lions if the 1st test was Saturday here is my starting XV.
15, Stuart Hogg, 14. Liam Williams, 13. Jamie Joseph, 12. Scott Williams, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Connor Murray, 8. CJ Stander, 7. Justin Tipuric, 6. Maro Itoje, 5. Joe Launchbury, 4, Alun-Wyn Jones, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 2. Rory Best, 1. Mako Vunipola
The rail strike was a main part of the news yesterday. Several news sites did insightful pieces and two aspects stood out. There was a sensible reason why DOO on the Underground was different to mainline railways. The cameras and screens for drivers to use for managing departures are much better on the Underground. A very valid point, but not an insurmountable one. The other aspect is there is zero motivation for Govia to give in to the unions as their franchise structure means they suffer no penalty through the strikes. WE the tax payer cough up for that, even if we never use the train. This is about power. Heaven help us if the railways were renationalised and the RMT and ASLEF were then able to hold the whole country to ransom. By the way any sympathy I had with the train drivers went out of the window when I read they earn c.£60,000 a year. No wonder fares are so expensive.
Finally the world is going mad. Teachers have been circulated a booklet stating they should no longer refer to the kids as 'boys' and 'girls' as it offends those with transgender issues. They also say the terms 'ladies' and 'gents' is also offensive. I know a child with transgender issues. It is a complex and often upsetting situation and they need support but do me a favour. Yet again this is political correctness and mealy mouthed sensitivity gone mad.