Monday 19th September - 08:45
Despite our loss on Saturday I remain positive about the season. The players we have look good and if we can eradicate the basic mistakes and have a little good fortune along the way there are plenty of wins to be had.
For Medway the situation is very different. Confidence is high. They enjoyed what looks a comfortable win away to Deal & Betteshanger and are perfect at the top of the table. Dartfordians too remain perfect with another bonus point win, this time against Old Alleynians. As expected our friends at Charlton Park win again and lie just ahead of the other team with two wins from two; Beckenham. Old Colfeians and Bromley respectively the losing sides. In the all Sussex clash Horsham would have enjoyed the trip home from Hove after their 17-24 victory. We languish in ninth spot on zero points. As stated above the season is young.
Let me be parochial for a moment. Well done to our 2s despite being very well beaten by Pulborough and well done The Crows on a fine win over East Grinstead 3s. It was NOT easy by any stretch of the imagination but to get three games on with so many absentees was impressive.
In Sussex 1 Burgess Hill remain top with an away win over Seaford. Hellingly are second after drawing with Horsham II and Uckfield are third after a very comfortable win over Brighton II. Either the table is wrong or Uckfield have incurred a points penalty as their results should put them top with a perfect start to the season. Crawley comfortably beat Hove II in the only other game.
Thanet Wanderers look determined to bounce straight back into London 2 South East with another fine bonus point win. Sheppey being the recipients of the battering. In the all Sussex encounters Lewes enjoyed their short journey narrowly overcoming Eastbourne. Haywards Heath journey home would have been less sweet after being held by Pulborough. In the other London 3 South East games Folkestone, Gillingham Anchorians and Old Dunstonians all won with Ashford, Aylesford Bulls and Park House respectively being the losers. Again the table is a mystery with Ashford on -10 points. I assume they too have transgressed where the league regulations are concerned.
In the National London League Chichester registered their first win, albeit by a single point vs Shelford. Tonbridge Juddians enjoyed their trip to Westcliff with a narrow win. Wimbledon remain top with a perfect start to the season, TJs are in fourth.
I have left London 1 South to last because the England Rugby website is not correctly showing the results for this league. I guess the website team are too busy as their emphasis must be on supporting the marketing team on pushing England's new overpriced shirts. Based on the league table I can with some confidence say that Tunbridge Wells beat Tottonians and sit in 2nd place. Sevenoaks lost at home to Maidstone. It appears that Brighton lost to Gravesend at Gravesend. CS Rugby 1863 remain top.
My daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining game in Salisbury. They beat Bracknell 27-22 and move into 6th. Bridgnorth had the arduous journey to Bedford, just 128 miles and 3 hours, but did enjoy the trip home after a 25-12 win. They too lie 6th in their league.
In the big boys league Wasps stung Bristol to death. For Bristol it is going to be a very long season unless Andy Robinson gets his charges into a higher gear. Leicester only just beat Newcastle. What a complete nonsense; the red card for Exeter's Thomas Francis. By the letter of the law it is red but come on, where is the common sense and empathy.
OK, if you got this far then you like your rugby. Give Baloo a call and book a seat at the league lunch next weekend. Deal & Betteshanger are our opponents.
Sunday 18th September - 09:30
If there were any neutrals over at Heathfield yesterday they would have been thoroughly entertained by an end to end game littered with brilliance one moment interrupted by complete ineptitude at others. They would have seen some great tries and some very opportunistic ones. They would have also enjoyed some decisive and unfussy refereeing.
For those shouting for The Greenies or the men from Steel Cross the emotions might have been different. Heathfield & Waldron on balance deserved the win. Their scrum was the main difference. The control they were able to exert from the set piece gave them an advantage. The other key set-piece was the lineout. No point in pulling my punches here, we were woeful. All to often the lineout gave The Greenies a steady supply of ball regardless of whose throw-in it was.
In the loose we were very competitive and technically very good. The red & white shirted backs played with skill going forward and for long periods had Heathfield & Waldron under pressure and able to turn the pressure into points.
New arrival Ben Whiteman looked assured on the wing and brought the added benefit of a reliable boot when kicking for goal. Andy Walters was EXCELLENT throughout and we need others to follow his example. Charlie Bulow also impressed and it was good to see Matt Botterman strutting his stuff.
So where was it won and lost? Well, it doesn't help that Crowborough played a total of 30 minutes with 14 men. Three yellow cards, in my view all justified, isn't the way to win games. H&W had pace to spare in their back three and they caused us trouble throughout, both wingers on the score sheet is testament to that. Sloppy mistakes at crucial times also hurt us, in attack and especially in defence.
So, on balance did H&W deserve to win? Yes, but a losing bonus point for CRFC would have been fair. After two defeats am I downhearted? No!!! The youngsters coming through look good, the new boys are adding a dynamism and there is still much talent to return from injury. On this point we picked up a number of new injuries again yesterday. That IS a worry.
Right, before I start preparing lunch a few comments on the other games I watched. The All Blacks were again dominant despite being pretty ordinary for long periods. Australia maintain their winning ways but this against a Puma side a shadow of the team that took on the All Blacks. In the evening the Dragons played well for long periods but couldn't hold back Munster. An enjoyable game nonetheless. Finally the Ospreys strolled past Treviso. Some excellent passages of play but all to easy for the men in black..... a recurring theme!!!
Friday 16th September - 08:40
Thankfully the Mitre 10 Cup from New Zealand is on the TV right now. This is taking the edge off the disappointment that the glorious weather of the last few days has gone. Right now it is Tasman v Northland. The standard of rugby is excellent and it is no wonder the All Blacks are so damn good. Later Wellington host Bay of Plenty. I'll be at the club getting soaked as the Friday Club's work doesn't end just because of a few drops deluge of rain.
The game of the weekend will be Heathfield & Waldron hosting the men from Steel Cross. The Greenies had a great season last year deservedly gaining promotion. Last week's result is no benchmark as Medway will stroll past everyone this season. We had a tough season last time out so any perceived gaps between the sides will be small. Our boys will be ready and I am sure a large travelling contingent of the faithfull will be there to spur them on. It should be a cracker.
One person who might not make it is The Bard. The French, oh how you do have to love those wonderfully European minded French, are on strike again. The air traffic controllers are again refusing to work and have therefore caused chaos across the continent. The Bard will just have to enjoy another day under the Spanish sun.
Mike Brown returns for Quins after illness, allegedly a virus picked up on the tour down under. Quins will need his input if they are to overcome Exeter at Sandy Park tomorrow. Amazingly the game of weekend Cardiff Blues against high flying Glasgow is not on TV. Shame as the latter will be buoyed by the return of Finn Russell after injury. Instead will have to make do with Ulster steam-rollering over the hopeless Scarlets.
I wonder how the cherry white faithful are feeling about how the fixtures have panned out for them. Week 3 of the season and the third Friday night fixture. At least it is on BT Sport.
Leicester (and possibly England) suffer a blow as Tuilagi recurring groin injury has not healed in time for this weekend. How serious we don't know yet.
The Rugby Championship is on tomorrow with The All Blacks hosting the Boks. Should be good but probably another masterclass from the men from the land of the long white cloud. The better game will be Australia v Argentina. Don't write off The Pumas.
The Scaletrix is back this weekend. It is back in Crowborough masquerading as the school run. Horrendous.
Finally before I head to the club here is a point, a Hinckley Point, to ponder. Is Great Britain about to become an autonomous region of China a la Hong Kong? China is to run our nuclear power industry. Does this make any sense to you? It doesn't to me.
It won't matter though because by the time it comes to fruition Trump and Kim Jong-un will have blown us all to smithereens.
Thursday 15th September - 09:15
World Rugby are looking to synchronise the Northern and Southern Hemisphere rugby seasons. From what I have read this would mean the three major European leagues; Aviva, Guinness Pro12, Top 14, moving their start dates back to October and extending the season into June. The other notable changes would be scrapping summer tours after a World Cup and the 2021 Lions tour would move back a month into July / August. The 6 Nations and RWC are unaffected.
What I find fascinating is World Rugby have stated central to the discussions is player welfare. However the head of Premiership Rugby, Mark McCafferty has already said that the post RWC period would free a spot for a world club tournament. So 'sod player welfare, let's milk them for every penny we can get'.
As many of you know I fear that money will ultimatley kill our game. I cannot prove it but the growth in clubs at our level, and even below, paying players to play is destroying the game. For me I believe that unless World Rugby and the national unions start to look at the game from the bottom up local rugby as we know it will die a lingering death.
On Saturday our 1s travel to Heathfield & Waldron. A short journey but a very tough game. The 2s are at home to Pulborough. The Crows play East Grinstead 3s at home. All well worth watching.
There is a new study that has been commissioned to look at the long term health of rugby players. The RFU has player welfare high on their agenda and are way ahead of many sports in this area. Soccer for example has only just woken up to the risk of head injuries. The impending Cillian Willis case is worrying many and I am certain the timing of this announcement is no coincidence.
Bath's Talupe Faletau will miss at least weeks due to injury whilst Alafoti Faosiliva will miss one week for being a naughty boy when playing against Gloucester. Exeter's Phil Dollman could be out for two months with a broken hand.
In other sport well done the Mighty Foxes. 3-0 win in their first ever Champions League fixture.
Elsewhere wasn't 'batter week' a good addition to Bake Off? Lacy pancakes, churros and exotic yorkshire puddings. Mmmmm! Yummy!
One story caught the eye and that was the growing number of people who use their mobile phones whilst driving, and worse the increase in deaths due to people using their phones. Those convicted of causing death because they were using their phone whilst driving should serve long and painful prison sentences.
Here is an idea for those who are caught. The car AND the phone should be confiscated. The drivers insurance company should be informed. A 9 point penalty and a hefty fine should be levied. When the latter has been applied then the car can be returned but not the phone. Draconian? Yes indeed! Something has to be done before many more people are killed by thoughtless people who are addicted to their phone, and for what? The bull that is known as Facebook and Twitter.
Wednesday 14th September - 08:45
Another overseas import arrives to play in the Aviva Premiership, this time Jason Greenwood from the Hurricanes to Bristol. Another player who will block the progress of an English player whilst biding his time until the pathetically short three years residency is over so that he can secure an England spot. Yes, he has recognised that he has no chance of playing for the All Blacks so 'let me "Keith Vaz" myself and see if I can play international rugby elsewhere'.
The headmasters office at the RFU has been busy this week with plenty of naughty boys already having to explain themselves for their behaviour. Quins Mat Luamanu has been given three weeks detention and a thousand lines; 'I must not use my shoulder recklessly'.
Various pundits are already picking their Lions teams. Sean Holley of the BBC and Stephen Jones of The Times are two such pundits. Eddie Jones is predicting a strong contribution from England. Can't disagree with his view that 15 England players will be in the squad. That is at the moment. Plenty of time to go as some will fall by the wayside to injury or discipline problems.
Me, so far I have Keith Vaz at hooker, Len McCluskey out wide on the left wing and Theresa May at 10.
Elsewhere in sport it genuinely brings a tear to your eye when you watch the TRULY AMAZING achievements of the Paralympians competing in Rio. You listen to the bull spouted by our politicians and then watch these young people battling against adversity and not giving in to the many, many issues thrown at them I know who I admire the most. By a very, very long way.
On Saturday I was accused of being a union basher. Actually I believe unions are good thing generally. If Sports Direct employees had union representation they would be in a much better place and I feel so would the company. What I detest is hypocrisy and shallow minded rhetoric. People like Cash and McClusky and Corbyn who enjoy the trappings of wealth whilst decrying Britain's wealth creators. They say they are fighting for the working class when in fact more often than not their actions adversely affect these very people the most.
Then you have people like Gove and Fox and Johnson who spout off about doing the best for Britain whilst the only thing they are vaguely interested in is their own self-interest. They would stab you in the back before the phrase 'et tu Brute' had left your lips.
Then there is the hypocrite general; Keith Vaz. What a complete tosser...... and other se........
Let's move on..........
The Great British Bake Off tonight. Hoorah! Batter week. Should be good. The move to C4 is causing a right kefuffle. It looks as if C4 have bought Manchester United but didn't check whether it included the team.
Another day of glorious sunshine so ........ bye for now.
Tuesday 13th September 08:30
Right, get your diaries out please. For those of you who have worn the red & white with pride the Past Players Lunch is on October 22nd when the 1st XV host Horsham. It is a great day and as you enjoy more and more wine the better a player you get. I can guarantee that by 5pm you will be wondering how you missed out on Lions selection.
If you haven't worn the red & white on the field that doesn't stop you attending. Come on, let us have you the faithful attending en masse, and by 5pm en mess. Sandra is already making room for the pantechnicon's delivery of wine and port. You and The Friday Club can debate how you missed out on the World White Lining Championships of 1936.
October 22nd. Just £20 for three fab courses. Contact Graysey to book your seats.
Remember you must drink responsibly. Spilling wine is not acceptable
Aaaarrrgghhhhh! The Great British Bake Off is going to Channel 4. Sorry but I won't be watching. You can guarantee the programme will become so commercialised with product placement and endless ad breaks that it will make watching tedious.
Finally today's rant. The RFU's marketing department should be ashamed of themselves. In recent mailings pushing their new overpriced kit they state that 'only the committed' wear the new kit. I say to the marketing team who came up with that you should come to Crowborough or visit Rye or Seaford, or get across to Norwich, or down to Salisbury and Cleve or up to Bridgnorth or Alnwick rugby Clubs and see what commitment to rugby really is. It is being there on a soggy November morning, in your own time, at your own cost, lining the pitch, fixing the posts, preparing the match food, cleaning the changing rooms, coaching the under 7s, marshalling the car park. THAT is commitment to our great game.
Monday 12th September - 08:30
Let us get straight into it. After Saturday Dartfordians sit 4th in the league, we lie 9th. It comes as no surprise that Medway are top after their 55-3 demolision of Heathfield & Waldron. Medway were forced into relegation for 'misdemeanours' off the field despite lying in third spot in London 1 South in May. The Greenies newly promoted were therefore always going to be up against it in this season opener. I expect Medway to run away with the league which brings into question the sense of relegating them. This is the only prediction you can make from these opening games.
The other relegated side from 1 South, Charlton Park, are second after beating Old Alleynians, again relatively comfortably. Old Colfeians sit third after beating newly promoted Bromley. Bromley being the only side not to get the scoreboard moving. Hove beat Deal & Betteshanger and in the closest of games Beckenham came away from Horsham with a 16-15 win.
In Sussex 1 Uckfield get off to a flier with a win over Horsham II. Hellingly also get off to a 5 point winning start by beating Seaford. Brighton II lie third and Burgess Hill fourth, the latter after a narrow win over Crawley, the former by a HWO. Shoreham were the other winners.
Moving up into London 3 South East Thanet Wanderers sit atop the table after comfortably beating Ashford. Pulborough lie second after enjoying an away win over Lewes. Folkestone and Haywards Heath enjoyed home wins, as did Sheppey who beat our good friends Aylesford Bulls. Eastbourne came away from Park House with a fine 10-7 victory. Ashford prop up the table with Lewes just above them.
Above us Tunbridge Wells overcame Sevenoaks 10-3. Brighton had a tough day with Havant beating them fairly easily 27-0. CS Rugby 1863 top the table after a perfect start. Tottonians sit second with the men from TWells in third. Sevenoaks are in 6th whilst Brighton sit in 11th.
In the ether of National League 3 London TJs slipped up at home against Westcombe Park. It is still early days so let us not draw any conclusions from this just yet. Chichester would have enjoyed the trip to Guernsey, as a trip, but not the result. Guernsey lie second to Wimbledon in the table, both with perfect starts to the season.
Here is what you are desperate to know; Bridgnorth enjoyed their first win of the season against Syston whilst Salisbury suffered their first defeat, Ivybridge being the victors.
In the big boys league Saracens marched past Exeter in imperious style. They are, even at this early stage out and out favourites to top the table and take the title. Northampton enjoyed an easy win against Bristol, albeit Bristol were a bit hapless at times. Dylan played well thus reinforcing his Lions captaincy credentials.
Must go, time for breakfast before the Friday Club, now working at the club pretty much everyday of the week right now, meet as more jobs need doing.
Sunday 11th September - 10:00
It would be wrong not to start by acknowledging the fact that today is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US. I am sure many of you can remember exactly where you were when the attacks happened and the imagery of the day as the events unfolded. Let us never forgot those who lost their lives and the impact that had on their loved ones.
It is also important to remember that out of tragedy comes hope and life goes on. That was definitely the case at Steel Cross yesterday. After a summer of hard work and dedication by many, but notably Dave Bristow and the Friday Club the grounds looked a picture. The club also got off to a flying start with a great lunch with Jacqui and Sandra and the team doing a splendid job. Thank you all.
Can I digress here and say a personal thank you for the fuss made about my 60th birthday. It was much appreciated.
On the field the 1st XV result not going our way was disappointing and the fact we pulled our 2s from the game at Eastbourne and our 3s fixture was pulled by East Peckham was even more frustrating. It was not all doom and gloom on the field as we must remember that Dartfordians were close behind Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells last season so a win was always going to be tough.
From where I stood, for long periods in that bloody annoying drizzle, watching us give away a try within a minute of the kick off put us on the back foot from the start. Dartfordians were sharper from the off and put us under some severe pressure. After a quarter of an hour we were 14-3 down. At this point the young lads out there in their shiney new kit could have crumbled. They didn't. They defended well for long periods and the backs started to show some deft handling and positive running. Dartfordians extended their lead with a try in the corner exploiting the fact 'Boro had two players lying injured across the field.
The second half saw a resurgent Steel Cross side and for much of this period we were the better team. The accuracy of handling improved, the support play was sharper, and the fitness levels looked good. Sadly we couldn't get past the visitors defence, which was rock solid. The dagger to the heart was Dartfordians only real attack in the 2nd half came at the death when they scored their bonus point try wide out.
Am I despondent? No! The backs look good. We have some key forwards soon to return from injury. Dartfordians will be in the shake up for promotion so this is not a bad result, especially as our new faces; Bertie Boast, Tom McMahon, Ed Higgins, Bertie Cook all did well, and club loyalist Ollie Jude-Trailor played well at hooker.
Full league round up tomorrow.
A few words on the big boys. What a great first half by Argentina but the All Blacks are simply ruthless in the second though. A great game for the neutral.
Well done to Australia for getting their campaign back on track. They still didn't look at their best but some of the dogged determination had returned. The Boks looked under-cooked. Whilst lacking the end to end rugby of the earlier game this was an enjoyable encounter for the tension and ferocity of the encounter.
Wow! Bath 58 Newcastle 5. Is Todd Blackadder the miracle worker Bath have so craved.
Wasps sting Leicester Tigers into defeat at Welford Road. This is another eye catching result.
Elsewhere the Scarlets are rubbish, the Cardiff Blues are on a mission and the Ospreys are looking good.
Sarries v Exeter is on BT this afternoon and I am led to believe it is on freeview.
That'll do for now as the match report won't write itself.
Friday 9th September - 09:15
Just over 24 hours before our season kicks off properly. 15:00 tomorrow the 1st XV will kick off at Steel Cross against Dartfordians whilst at the same time The Crows take on East Peckham. The 2s start their season away to Eastbourne 2s. Good luck to all. Certainly Steel Cross looks a picture so well worth popping over to watch one the home games.
Plenty of big boys rugby to ponder. As I was having a very nice day out in Gloucester yesterday I'll be watching out for their result against Worcester. Leicester v Wasps looks the pick of Saturday's Aviva games. Connacht v Ospreys should be a good one and probably be what I'll watch, Mrs Bleater permitting.
The mighty All Blacks against Argentina will be my breakfast viewing. The Pumas will probably put up a better test than the Aussies did but there is only one winner, especially as Hansen has avoided rotating his squad.
South Africa have made several changes from the side who lost in Argentina. The back line has been freshened up and is led by Adriaan Strauss who I mistakenly said had retired earlier this week. Australia will also field a changed side after their disappointing games vs The All Blacks. I go the Boks.
The only rugby story in the papers is Warren Gatland and The Lions. The consensus is he is the right man for the job and the schedule is the toughest its been. The big question is who will be in his coaching staff and who will captain the squad. Dylan is definitely in the frame for the latter, and logically must be favourite for the job.
Paddy O'Fez has asked a sensible question..... for once.... and that is doesn't the schedule and the timing fly in the face of all the emphasis we have on player health. I agree sir, but there are c.£65,000 reasons why a player would want to be on the tour and put their bodies through another 7 weeks of matches. £45k basic fee and a £20k win bonus is a pretty good incentive.
Too early to talk about the squad make up but England players are likely to be in the majority. Right now there are probably just a handful of players who you put down as 'shoe-ins'; Dylan, George North, Rhys Webb, Stuart Hogg, WP Nel.
Be afraid, be very afraid. North Korea appear to have carried out another successful nuclear test. The thought that Kim Jong-un could soon have viable nuclear weapons genuinely worries me. He is the sort of fruit loop who would shoot first and ponder the implications afterwards.
Grammar Schools are the big story in the papers. FYI I went to a grammar school and look at how I turned out....... a grumpy bugger. I find it really frustrating that yet again both sides of the argument are spouting rhetoric based on political bias but a long way from what you and I think.
Finally, cameras at the ready. Trains will run between Uckfield and London today. A rarity indeed.
Wednesday 7th September - 09:00
The school holidays are over so Tuesday is back to looking after my grandson which is why the league round up has switched to a Monday. By the way did I mention I was 60 today. Yeah! I know, I don't look it.
Anyway, enough of me, much in the news to ponder.
As expected Warren Gateland will coach The Lions in New Zealand next year. There really was no other choice. To copy a headline I have seen elsewhere it is 'Mission Impossible' for Gatland and The Lions. The All Blacks are simply head and shoulders above anyone else in this great game of ours. To compound this immense challenge The Lions are likely to face much stronger opposition before the tests as the Super Rugby sides are likely to field their All Blacks, unlike the situation in Oz where the Wallabies refused to release their players for the lead up games.
Stuart Lancaster has finally fought back against those who have critised his coaching of England, or in fact his lack of coaching. This comes as he joins Leinster with some fancy title but basically Assitant Coach to Leo Cullen. Good luck to him. He will do well as he is very methodical and will certainly help Leinster with their processes and approach to the game.
It will come as no surprise after New Zealand mens rugby came away from Rio without any silverware at all that the GREAT Sir Gordon Tietjens retires from his 7s coaching role. He has had an AMAZING career and whilst his last hoorah was disappointing his contribution to 7s rugby globally has been fantastic. By the way he is 60 too!!!
There was a really well written piece in The Times yesterday about the difficluties clubs in The Championship face. Spiralling costs, including wage bills, against small crowds and limited income streams (vs the Aviva). As London Welsh, who dodged the winding up bullet yesterday as new owners came to their rescue, know only too well. London Irish has a wage bill of £3m. This cannot be sustainable. Richmond on the other hand don't pay their players. They cover their expenses and treat them as a Premiership club might but the players lives are funded by proper jobs. Having been through the wringer before, Richmond won't make the same mistake again. If you get the chance it is worth reading the article and SORRY to be smug but it again reinforces my view that money will be the death knell for many clubs in our game.
Good news for Cardiff Blues as Sam Warburton is set for his return.
Here we go again, the RMT are on strike and hardworking Londoners and those living in the South East are forced to battle against the odds to get to work. Let us not kid ourselves, and it is about time that Cash and his Trotskyist accolytes came clean, this is NOT about safety. This is about fighting against the fear of job losses. Do you know what? A lot more people might be sympathetic to this argument than the 'safety' bull. It is also about bringing the railways back into public ownership. An unsustainable proposition unless you the tax payer is willing to divert money from the public purse that is spent on your kids education and the NHS to the railways. No, I didn't think so.
Finally the fact that Anjem Choudray only gets 5 years in jail for the vile and hate filled rants that spewed from his mouth is a disgrace. Me, I would put him in a cell and throw away the key. He would have the Nolan's playing on a radio for 24 hours a day and nothing but the inane life of Kim Kardashian to watch on TV with a diet of nothing but Quorn sausages to live off. Actually I wouldn't. I would have sent him to see Kim boy with the message; 'another to see your party trick with an anti-aircraft gun'.
Monday 5th Spetember - 08:45
It was with the greatest sadness to learn of the passing of Henry Grootveldt from Bigfield Coaches. Henry was the likeable, affable and accomodating coach driver who ferried the boys back and forth for away fixtures. Henry died from a cardiac issue (the details are sketchy I'm afraid) some time early in July and laid to rest on July 21st. The information has only just come to light. I know many at the club will be saddened by this news and like me I hope they will spare a moments thought for his family and friends who survive him. We'll miss you Henry.
This news and the weather have dampened my mood but I am sure the boys at Sevenoaks will still be on a high after their excellent 47 - 0 home win over Gosport & Fareham. What a great way to kick off life in London 1 South. As expected Tunbridge Wells found it tough going away at Maidstone but I am pleased to say came away with a 14 - 15 victory. Many will find Maidstone at home a very tough proposition so this is a fine result. Brighton, the last of my teams to follow in this league were not so fortunate as they travelled back along the M27/A27 with a 26 - 16 defeat to ponder.
In the ether of National League 3 London SE Tonbridge Juddians also got their campaign off to a comfortable winning start. A 45 - 0 trouncing of Southend Saxons sees then in No.1 spot in the table. When the Vikings invade things might get tougher though. Chichester sadly came away from big spending Westcombe Park with a loss BUT only by one point 18 - 17. In my mind this is a good result as Westcombe Park are my favourites, along with TJs, to be battling for promotion.
As an aside, as the weather is dire this morning, I might trawl through these clubs match reports to see how the Crowborough RFC exports. e.g. Sean Derrick, Tommy Nicol, Harry Sansbury performed.
Elsewhere Salisbury got off to a winning start in National League 3 South with a 21 - 16 win over Bournemouth. Bridgnorth on the other hand in National League 3 Midlands went down at home 6 - 14 to Sheffield. Since when has Sheffield been in the Midlands?
High in the stratosphere of the Aviva Premiership BIG, BIG spenders Wasps overcame the dogged resistance of Exeter to score a win. Exeter were excellent for long periods and will be right up there when the gongs are handed out. Wasps will need to pull themselves together if they are to challenge Saracens.
Here we go. Time to 'bleat'. I was troubled watching the opening weekend's highlights on ITV 4 last night to see so many overseas players across all of the Aviva teams. Hey Ho! That Sale away kit is headache inducing. Blimey they could see it from the space station.
The Cardiff Blues remote controlled areoplane that brings on the kicking tee is causing quite a stir. Very cool and the crowd loves it.
Is Keith Vaz the plonker of the week or what? Another two faced hypocritical politician!!
Another week another execution. Kim Jong-un executes his education minister...... for not sitting up straight in a meeting. I don't make this stuff up. The boy is a power crazed psychopath.
If you have high blood pressure like I do then reading that Southern Rail made profits of £100m last year and then have been given £20m to sort out the current debacle will cause you system to overload. It certainly did mine. I am sorry but this simply cannot be right.
Must go to get my Perindopril tablets.
Sunday 4th September - 09:45
There is only one place to start and that is over at East Grinstead. The trials and tribulations of East Grinstead have been well documented so to see so many people there yesterday was great. The guys at East Grinstead should be very proud of what they have done to get back on track in a short space of time. It was heartwarming to see both clubs field three teams and all three games to be keenly contested. We at Crowborough RFC should also be rightly proud of our contribution to the day. The number of supporters who travelled the short distance across the forest was impressive. Let our seasons commence.
The youngsters on show for Crowborough have slotted in very well and some of the back play looked great. With several first choice front row still on the injurted list this could be our Achilles heel but I for one am confident of us being competitive this season. If we can keep the numbers up I am also hopeful we will field three sides throughout the season. The Crows also looked in fine form, which was great. Marauding buffalo on the field, finally tuned athletes drinkers off the field.
I understand why East Grinstead have to go into the Sussex Intermediate league; RFU regulations, but based on yesterday I fear they will be too strong for all the sides in that league. They looked very well drilled and powerful in all positions. This may cause problems as the season develops but that is for the administrators to worry about and of possible concern to the guys who are working tirelessly to get East Grinstead back to their rightful place in our great game. FYI I discussed this at length yesterday and know that EG are well aware of the possible implications of mis-matches.
A quick look at the big boys results from yesterday. Todd Blackadder got off to a cracking start with a fine win at Franklyn Gradens. George Ford kicked all Bath's points to seal the narrowest of wins. The major downside for him, and Wales, was what looks like a serious knee injury to Taulupe Faletau.
As expected Saracens strolled past Worcester but Quins were pushed hard by new boys Bristol. From the reports it seems that the West Country outfit were the better side for long periods and only as they tired did the Quins take some sort of control.
In the Guinness Pro12 last year's title winners Connacht were given a lesson by Gregor Townsend's Glasgow side. A very impressive performance. Munster were ruthless in their victory over the Scarlets. The men from Llanelli will be somewhat concerned as they had high hopes for the season. Cardiff on the other hand will be buoyed by their win over Edinburgh. They look controlled and decisive and seem to have the strength in depth to carry them forward from last season's mediocre performance.
In a change to this drivels format I will do a run around the local leagues on a Monday rather than Tuesday.
One piece of rugby news that surprised me was the announcement of Springbok captain's Adriaan Strauss's immediate retirement from test rugby. There must be more to this story me thinks.
Finally don't forget to book your place at the league lunch next week. Speak to Baloo for information.
Saturday 3rd September - 10:00
Somewhat remiss of me but I overlooked the fact that the London leagues kick off today. I wish our friends from St Marks good luck for the season. I see they start off with a tricky away game at Maidstone. Tunbridge Wells will still be on a high from their fantastic Twickenham success and have invested in some new players for the challenge ahead. I think, and hope they will do well. Sevenoaks host Gosport & Fareham. Another challenging encounter but again I am sure the 'Oaks' will come through this one and have a great season in London 1 South. I hope so, they are another fine bunch of people on and off the field. Finally good luck to Brighton who have a tricky tie against Tottonians. They should again be able to hold their own in this league and will hopefully have their eye on promotion.
Above them TJs start at home against Southend Saxons. Could this be their year to finally clinch promotion having been so close in the recent past. Chichester start with possibly the most difficult game, an away trip to ambitious Westcombe Park. They might not come away from this one with a win but I am sure they won't be in the relegation battle at the end of the campaign.
Good luck to them and all our friends around the leagues.
What did I get right?
The Ospreys strolling past Zebre. Great to see Tipuric back, and having a brilliant game.
Ulster having a comfortable win over the Dragons but this being a thoroughly enjoyable game. Ulster certainly have some strength in depth with the youngsters on show stealing the limelight.
Never write Leicester Tigers off. Coming back from 24 points down at Kingsholm is pretty impressive stuff.
What did I get wrong?
Newcastle beating Sale was a surprise. I had expected Sale to be up and at it from the gun. Well done the men from Kingston Park.
Leinster didn't stroll past Treviso. Although they won I am led to believe it was a tough encounter and the final outcome should have been a lot closer.
If you are reading this before going to East Grinstead today then see you there. Yes I can make it, and yes I will have my Aeroplane Spotters Weekly with me.
Sad to see London Welsh are with a gnat's whisker of going to the wall. In terms of my incessant bleating on about how the game is not in great shape due to the increasing demands of players and the escalating costs of running clubs I say to those who doubt my view 'Quod Erat Demonstrandum'.
Finally can I thank Paddy O'Fez for being so polite. Calling me 'Silly Old Bleater' is such a change to the more accurate 'f****** useless ****'. By the way the Owen Franks incident was looked at and it was found there was no case to answer.
Thursday 1st September - 09:15
Where does the time go? It only seems like yesterday I was saying 'hoorah Christmas is over, bring on 2016' and here we are; September, the start of autumn. Depressingly some of the leaves on the trees around the club are already turning brown and falling. At least we will have rugby to watch at Steel Cross very soon, and our wonderful minis and juniors will be out there enjoying our great facilities.
Talking of wonderful, the Wonderful Mr Geering advises me that Saturday's games over at East Grinstead kick off at 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00 for the old blokes, the 2s and 1s respectively. These are warm up games but more importantly a way for East Grinstead to get their club back on track and a way for us to support them. Somewhat embarrassingly I can't make it but I am sure some of you will.
The season starts 'proper like' on the 10th when the 1st XV host Dartfordians. Kick off at 15:00. There IS a lunch. Let 'Baloo' Bennett know you want a place.
Much of the rugby news is about the start of the season. I did that yesterday so I want to pick up on a story that caught my eye on BBC.co.uk. It is about how rugby at the elite level has become a ruthless business. It discusses how clubs are looking for enormous players who can give out and take big hits. It highlights how those who don't cut the mustard are discarded as quickly as they are recruited. It also highlights one of my major concerns which is, despite much talk to the contrary, that growing your own fruit through academies is not the way forward. If you haven't got it, buy it. It highlights the fact that each season sees a raft of 21 and 22 year olds being turfed out of academies with nothing but overly developed bodies and a blank CV to fall back on. It is written by James Lyall who interviews ex Scottish star and current player agent Shaun Longstaff. I highly recommend you read it. It makes depressing reading for us who love the game.
There is an equally interesting story hitting the websites about Ruan Pienaar, who has been a star in the Pro12 for sometime, being unable to extend his Ulster contract and therefore being forced to leave. We have to remember that Irish regions are funded by the IRFU. Their policy is to sanction overseas imports and when their contract is up the succession has to be for a Ireland qualified player. Interesting.
Many of the other stories are about who is going to make an impact in the leagues and the player movements. I find it depressing that many of the stories are about overseas players. I know I bleat on and on about this but I fear English (and French) domestic rugby is becoming like soccer where the key players in the key positions are not eligible to play for England. Hey ho! I guess those who support Wasps will only be worrying about winning and not whether they are keeping England's ambitions on track.
A couple of one liners on other news.......
Trump goes to Mexico and is the mealy-mouthed politician before returning home and saying the wall is coming to keep them out.
Kim Jong-un executes one of his government who had the temerity too propose an alternative way forward to Kim Boy's way forward. That's not news you might say. I say it is when you find out he was executed by an anti-aircraft gun.
The doctors are going on strike again, despite their governing body recommending to accept the new deal. Money, money, money.
Dover mayor who snorted coke a white substance won't resign. Muppet.
Today is the day when the parasitic soccer agents sit in their their oily spiders web counting the huge amount of money they will have made over the last few months.
Finally I say hoorah, hoorah, and hoorah again. The Great British Bake Off is back. Last week's episode was good but last night's biscuit week was great. Welsh hairdresser Louise got the the boot as bake after bake collapsed in one way or another. Bit like Welsh rugby, which according to one reporter is falling into oblivion as players and spectators alike turn their back on rugby to watch Swansea City and Cardiff City strut their stuff.
Wednesday 31st August - 08:30
As we know the Aviva Premiership kicks off on Friday evening with two interesting match ups; Gloucester v Leicester Tigers and Newcastle v Sale Sharks, the former being shown on BT Sport. The Tigers can never be ruled out of the title chase and with the pantomime villain Richard Cockrill in charge that comes as no surprise. With significant fresh investment being poured into Sale expect them to be in the hunt too. Newcastle I fear will again be in the relegation dog fight.
On Saturday the Fez Heads will be present in Barnet to watch them take on Worcester Warriors. The Warriors without Dean Ryan will be up against it as it as Sarries will again be there or there abouts at the end of the season. Northampton v Bath is always a good encounter. As previously discussed it will be fascinating to see if Bath can rediscover the magic of the 80s and 90s under Todd Blackadder. Finally on Saturday new boys Bristol travel to Harlequins. This won't be easy as the gulf between Championship and Premiership is quite large. I go Quins as they enter the post Connor O'Shea era. Sarries and Quins are on BT Sport back to back.
Finally what I think will be the game of the weekend is at the Ricoh on Sunday, again on BT Sport, when Wasps host Exeter. I have big spending Wasps as title favourites this year. Dai Young now has a squad, a very expensive squad, to compete week in week out. Kurtley Beale and Danny Cipriani will be key to their success or failure. They stay fit and stay on plan then they can inspire Wasps to greatness. I do however blanche when I see Beale is on £500,000 a year. This cannot be sustainable (read BBC Sport for the full story). Never write off Exeter under the wily old fox Rob Baxter. They will continue to be a team to fear and will not be an easy push over for anyone at anytime. I see them easily into the play-offs.
The Guinness Pro12 also kicks off on Friday. This league is not as competitive as the Aviva with some of the match-ups less inspiring than they should be. I am not sure Leinster v Treviso or Ospreys v Zebre will be 'appointments to view'. Scarlets v Munster on the other hand is going to be the one we might watch on Saturday (Sky Sports). Ulster v The Dragons is often a good game but with Ulster's strength in depth and Newport Gwent Dragons being the poor relation of the Welsh regions it could also be a one-sided affair. Ulster will be there in the end of season shake up, The Dragons won't.
Cardiff Blues host Edinburgh on Saturday. Cardiff have attracted a number of players to their franchise, including the mercurial Matthew Morgan and will be a team to watch this year. I see them being very competitive. This is also on Sky Sports. Finally last season's surprise package Connacht host Glasgow. This will be the game of the day with both sides having an eye on the end of season prize.
The head of the Pro12 Martin Anayi has said they must improve the deal they get from TV and think outside the box to grow the game, e.g. two US regions, which by the way has received a positive reaction from World Rugby. He goes on to say they should not, in fact cannot go down the big spending route that English and French rugby have done. £500,000 on Kurtley Beale. My eyes are still smarting at that. Well worth a read. BBC Sport.
At last just rugby to talk about. Off to the club now as The Friday Club undertakes more pre-season preparation.
Tuesday 30th August - 09:00
Before we talk about the opening day for both the Aviva Premiership and the Guinesss Pro12 let us look back at the weekend.
What a great long weekend it was too. Despite Sunday being not so great weather wise it was fab. I even got to have a ride on Crowborough's miniature railway on Saturday. Not sure who was more excited, me or my grandson.
Obviously this was after watching the All Blacks beat Australia. Not so comfortable a win this week as last but comfortable enough. The men in black are simply just head and shoulders above anyone else in world rugby. Another stylish display from Beauden Barrett, Israel Dagg was as good as I have seen him and debutant Anton Lienert-Brown looked as if it was his 50th cap not his first. The Australians showed more grit and determination and Quade Cooper at #10 led the backs well but it just wasn't good enough.
What was the key difference? Easy! Support play. Whenever an All Black had the ball there was someone in support. An option to off-load and maintain the momentum. Australia failed to deliver that same level of support. A perfect example was the Genia break, an excellent break too, but it floundered because no-one was on his shoulder at the crucial moment. In contrast the All Blacks from 1 to 23 handle the ball like backs and seem to be able to be in the right place, at the right time, all the time.
There is energy, aggression and determination and there is stupidity. Australia's Adam Coleman rightly saw yellow for his late charge on Barrett. That definitely doesn't help the cause. Dane Cole got away with one when Roman Poite, who generally had a good game, bottled the decision to sin bin Cole for his swinging arm onto an Aussie forward. That's my view anyway.
Later in the day The Pumas enjoyed a thoroughly well-deserved win over the Springboks. This wasn't the exciting game of last week but it was a great game. Nail-biting to the end. They looked the better team and the win was earned by the sheer doggedness for the full 80 minutes. This against a backdrop of several key players limping from the field. Argentina could have made this a more comfortable affair if their support play was more dynamic and they were more reliable in the tackle. For the Boks Bryan Habana was outstanding. Some of his teammates were less so. The Boks will bounce back and Argentina need to maintain their progress. I am sure they will but it is the All Blacks up next, in New Zealand to boot.
Premiership Rugby boss Mark McCafferty has had a serious strop about the 2017 Lions schedule. It's too long, it's too tough, it needs to be reviewed. Of course he is going to say that as the Premiership's, in fact all professional rugby clubs best interests would be served by players only playing for their clubs and not playing representative rugby. They are the clubs' main business asset and to lose them to injury after arduous tours to foreign parts is an issue. He misses the point however, especially about The Lions, is that these games are what keeps the paying public engaged with our great game and encourages them through the turnstiles of the big clubs. Stuart Barnes makes the same point much more eloquently than I do. Sky.com/sports
I have no idea how Saturday went over at Heathfield. Knowing some of the guys over there it will have been a brilliant day, superbly well organised, enjoyed by all and raising a lot of cash for Joe.
Let us keep the season preview until tomorrow and through the week.
The newspaper headlines are dominated by one story: Calais and the migrant crisis. It is a desperately sad and increasingly worrying situation. The French naturally want it resolved and are now rattling their sabres at us here in the United Kingdom. My view is unchanged. You the French, along with the Germans et all voted for open borders. You reap what you sow. Equally if these are genuine refugees from tyranny then they should be claiming asylum in the first 'safe' country they land in. You can't tell me France is not a 'safe' country....... or maybe it isn't when you see what is happening to Muslim women on France's beaches.