Sunday 24th Mar: 08:00
As the excellent John Inverdale often says "separate the game from the occasion". For the neutral the game was probably very enjoyable. Lots of tries, a splendid comeback from the visitors and plenty of action. For the Crowborough faithful it was a difficult day watching the forwards battle away to secure good ball only for it to be wasted out wide all too often. Having gone into what looked a comfortable lead it all fell apart at the end with Park House running out deserved winners.
As an occasion it was great. The place looked a picture. The clubhouse was packed with 80+ guests enjoying an excellent lunch (thanks Jacqui) amongst good friends. The pre-match atmosphere was thoroughly enjoyable even if some of us imbibed rather too enthusiastically.
Any win would secure promotion and the title. It wasn't to be as Park House hadn't read the script. They started well, then faded a little, then finished very strongly. In my opinion they were deserved winners and a very different side from the one we strolled past earlier in the season. As has been the case in previous encounters their #10 was the puppet master pulling the strings of the side. They have a sizeable pack and pacey backs and as a consequence put us under pressure for long periods.
We opened the score via Andy Orchard after an excellent Bertie Boast break. As Park House battled back we defended well but it wasn't enough to keep the visitors at bay. The score gave the visitors a lift and our defence started to creak at the seams. After conceding two tries we pulled ourselves together and retook the lead via Connor Hand. Going in at the break in the lead augured well for that all important win.
The rampaging Matt Botterman lead the way and put us on the front foot rocking Park House back on their heels. A couple of tries took us into what looked a comfortable and decisive lead but it wasn't to be. The ball would find its way to the backs for it to be wasted. The defence started to crumble and the visitors moved the ball around the pitch at pace and skill. Their excellent half backs got them to within two points of us with a try apiece. Stupidity reigned when Ollie Jude Trailor had a moment of madness and quite rightly saw yellow. Park House saw their opportunity and took it kicking a winning penalty late on. Final score 26-27. See the match report for more detail.
Despite my disappointment at the result and quite frankly at the performance my maths tells me the two points earned are enough to get us promoted. Vigo lost to Beccehamian who are now the only team who can overtake us. Folkestone are still in the hunt but need Beccehamian to lose both their final games. We play Folkestone next so we will need to shake ourselves off and get our mojo back if we aren't to finish the season on a losing streak.
Full league round-up tomorrow but I think Park House are now safe. Well done to them.
Some interesting results in the big boys league with Worcester beating Bristol and Newcastle beating Sale it is getting very tight at the bottom. Who will go down? Gloucester are the real deal with a fine win over Wasps.
That'll do for now, back tomorrow.
Saturday 23rd Mar: 09:30
Not long now before the boys kick off against Park House. Neither side will have any complaints about the pitch and the facilities. The Friday club have been busy all week and the outcome is pretty impressive considering the weather we've had over the last few weeks. Jacqui was also busy preparing for today's lunch. Sold out by the way. Nick and the bar team were also beavering away making sure nothing was left to chance in advance of our sponsors and advertisers event.
I watched a very impressive Northampton Saints side beat a not very impressive Leicester Tigers last night. The Welford Road outfit were pretty ordinary and could be in danger of relegation. That would be fascinating wouldn't it? What money that "ring-fencing" would be the hottest topic in town if that were to happen? Bias you might cry but I thought Dan Biggarhead was excellent from start to finish. Known for his kicking game he showed a deft touch with ball in hand and played with vision and control. His passing frequently releasing the men out wide. Great stuff.
Cardiff Blues demolished the Scarlets which was slightly surprising. The Blues are a step closer to taking a play-off spot. Edinburgh beating Leinster was also a surprise and likewise boosted their play-off chances. The result also highlights why Leinster (and Munster) have been so good in Europe in that they qualify for the Pro14 play-offs early allowing them to rest players ahead of the European games when it matters.
World Rugby are desperate for the Six Nations chiefs to sign up to the global league. It ain't going to happen!
Interesting story about Exeter Chiefs having to release Tom Lawdy to Quins because of the salary cap. Do Exeter follow the cap religiously where others don't? Is this a reason why Exeter are in profit and the others aren't?
I have touched on the shambles that is Welsh rugby and the WRU. Project Reset has turned into Project Cock-up. Friday Club stalwart Ken has suggested that Failing Grayling might be the ideal person to oversee the changes in the Welsh game. He is well versed in managing fiascos.
Finally, the votes are in. Yes I am stupid..... apparently. Stupid for not picking out Michael Gove and David Cameron as being the architects of some of the mess we are in right now. Something to debate later. I don't have the stomach for it right now.
Thursday 21st Mar: 08:45
At the grassroots level of our game many eyes will be focussed on the crucial issue of promotion and relegation. For some promotion is something to dread as the gap between the leagues gets ever larger and the need for deeper squads becomes more and more important. As some clubs close to us have found promotion has brought unhappiness rather than joy. I hope they don't mind me saying this but in the case of Hellingly leaving them close to collapse. Losing game, after game with more and more players getting injured and having to travel long distances for the pleasure is not what young people want. Relegation is equally problematical with the standard of games to be played reducing and the interest of sponsors, advertisers, and supporters waning it can leave clubs in a very difficult position.
All that negative stuff said this time of the season is fantastic as clubs battle for promotion and fight to stave off relegation. Saturday could be a defining one in our league and many of the leagues around us. I am looking forward to Saturday and being at Steel Cross when we take on Park House, then rushing home to pour over the results elsewhere. It should be fascinating.
Whilst Wales sits atop of the 6 Nations table and ranked second globally the domestic game is in chaos and possibly terminal decline. The grassroots of the game is in free-fall with clubs folding week by week. The WRU are desperate to enhance and revitalise the regional game but to no avail. The WRU have had to apologise to the players and regions about the shambolic way Project Reset was handled during the 6 Nations. The merger of Ospreys and Scarlets is off so next season, and possibly the one after that, it is as you were.
There is some good news as key players sign new contracts to stay in Wales and others like Josh Adams return to Wales to secure their international future. Some, for example Gareth Anscombe have suggested that the shambles might mean players would be willing to sacrifice their international careers for job security "overseas"; England or France basically.
There is plenty of time for this soap opera to run and run.
For the big boys it is the time of year when they start to shape their squads for the following season. Yet again clubs are announcing big signings many of whom are overseas players. I know, I know, I bleat on and on about this but it cannot be good for the game as a whole. Great for the big boys but dire for everyone else. Look at the Top 14. The games are very well attended and the rugby not bad but the sides are full of overseas players, especially South Sea Islanders. The international side is struggling as a consequence and the grassroots game is also in the mire. Hey Ho! At some point I am going to have to admit defeat and accept that the clubs, like in soccer, will rule the game and international rugby will be a sideshow with the grassroots game a long way from where it is now, and by the way that is a very long way from where it was.
Plenty of top flight games to get your teeth into, including what is being billed as the biggest local rivalry; Saracens v Quins. I did smile at that and thought of Bath v Bristol, Bristol v Gloucester, Leicester v Saints, Leinster v Munster, Cardiff v Newport (Dragons), Scarlets v Ospreys. Yeah Sarries v Quins is big but it's not a Big Mac.
By the way, next season that game will be played at Spurs state of the art new stadium. You'll need to remortgage your house for a ticket.
Cardiff v Scarlets, Exeter v Bath (Sun), Reds v Brumbies (Sun) all stand out as worth watching.
Big few days for the Super game down under as they battle with dwindling audiences and increasing costs. It is rumoured that the Sunwolves could be axed as part of the reorganisation of the tournament. Be a shame in World Cup year but I guess that is the way it is.
Sorry but I am going to mention Brexit. As Mrs Bleater and I drove home yesterday listening to the World at One on Radio 4 I asked her "am I stupid?". I asked because I am failing to understand where many, in fact most of our politicians are coming from. One MP was castigating Theresa Maybe for not asking her for her opinion on Brexit. So the PM has to ask every single MP for their view. So she then has 650+ different opinions and isn't that what party leaders are for. It is clear no-one wants Maybe's deal but what do they want instead. I still can't fathom that one out because no-one is willing to stand up and say what they want and if they do it is equally divisive. There are some talking about having a "Norway plus" deal, this despite sensible and well respected Norwegians saying it is a bad idea. You have others screaming about a Customs Union but to have that we have to accept many of the EU regulations on movement of people and human rights etc, etc. Basically all the pain for no gain. Then there is the second referendum. What happens if that is a resounding "leave". No-one wants to answer that because they would then have to admit they are only interested in remaining come what may. You have others such as Comrade Corbynov who does not give two hoots about Brexit he would vote against any deal no matter as he wants to force a general election. That was epitomised when he petulantly refused to attend a leaders meeting with Maybe because Chukka Chips was present. Then you have that arrogant clown Bercow invoking some 17th century protocol in attempt to thwart Brexit and all he has done is taken us a huge step closer to crashing out without a deal. "It is all her fault" they cry. NO! The EU are to blame as well BUT it is the fault of the many who are so entrenched in their position of "leaving" or "remaining" that they won't comprise one iota is why we are in this mess. Then, and possibly the most baffling point is the sheer arrogance of the British politicians that not once have I heard anyone say "I have looked at it from the EUs point of view and I think if we did this they would do that". No it is me, me, me, me. A bunch of clowns all of them.
Oh how I am glad Happiness Day was yesterday.
Tuesday 19th Mar: 11:00
As the dust settles on the Six Nations eyes are now looking ahead to the World Cup in Japan. I think it is fair to say that Wales have a great opportunity to make their mark again. Semi-finalists in 2011 and quarter finalists in 2015. Are they realistic contenders to win? It is possible they could get to the final where I expect the might of the All Blacks will inevitably stand in their way. After this weekend do we write England and Ireland off? Absolutely not! England have played some amazing rugby scoring some excellent tries. Get the mental side of things sorted and improve the on and off field tactical appreciation they could be serious contenders. When you think about the amount of money spent on the England set-up they should never lose. Ireland have lost their edge but one last hoorah for Johnny Sexton and Connor Murray and they will be right up there. RWC 2019 is just under seven months away but there is a lot of water to flow under the bridge before then.
A quick word of congratulation to Ireland Under 20s for their Grand Slam winning tournament. Likewise a very “well done” to England’s women for their Grand Slam of victories. For the women my praise is somewhat muted because The RFU has thrown a significant amount of money at them with the international set up now fully professional. The top flight women’s game in England is very well funded too. That contrasts significantly with the other five nations. It is akin to Manchester City playing Eastbourne Borough. The gulf in funding and player quality is immense.
I read that King Eddie is going to get some sort of sports psychologist in to help his players become mentally tougher. Yet more money not available to be spent on the grassroots game adding to the already profligate spending of Jones. If England was a business the shareholders would be asking serious question about the return they are getting on their investment.
Many papers have summarised their awards for the tournament. Here are a couple of mine……
Player – Alun Wyn Jones
Try – Sam Johnson for Scotland last weekend
Game – England v Scotland
Disappointment – Ireland / Johnny Sexton
Coach(es) – Warren Gatland/Shaun Edwards
Poorest decision – keeping the roof open in Cardiff
Chokers – England
Unsung heroes – Tom Curry, Josh Adams, Josh Navidi
Fond farewells – Sergio Parisse, Rory Best
Finally the most annoying – Eddie Jones for his pathetic and puerile mind games.
Northampton Saints beat Saracens in the inaugural final of the Premiership Cup. I still say this is a tournament too far and Premiership Rugby have missed an opportunity to rest players instead. Of course I am not a CEO at a debt laden Premiership Club happy to flog my best assets to death in the pursuit of cash. Before I get inundated with abuse from the Fez Heads Saracens were decimated by injury and international call ups and played fair with regard to playing mostly second string players.
Grassroots rugby returns next weekend. We host Park House at Steel Cross. A win would seal promotion for us, and the title. Park House are desperate to stay up and as we saw when we faced Beccehamians you can take nothing for granted. It is very much fingers crossed for dry weather to get the pitch ready and fingers crossed we can rediscover the scintillating form we have showed at times during the season to date.
For others there is much to play for. Hastings & Bexhill RFC by virtue of the way the fixture list has worked for them have just one game left to prevent them being in the relegation picture. Lewes, Bromley and Park House have three, three and two games respectively to save their season. The worry here is that due to the vagaries of the league structure up to three clubs could go down, this in addition to Hellingly’s withdrawal.
At the top we need just one more win to go up but we could still blow it so let’s leave the counting of chickens to later. Vigo and Beccehamians play in a winner takes all fixture and Folkestone could still sneak up on the rails.
I did smile when I read about our beloved neighbours the French. Eurostar is in chaos because the French unions are working to rule due to the increased workload that WILL BE caused by Brexit. Mes amis, Brexit might not happen the way things are going but I admire the bare-faced cheek of your unions in using this as an excuse to get more money. I bet Mike Loadsa Cash is taking notes. If Comrade Corbynov ever makes it into No.10 then rest assured the RMT and ASLEF will make the French rail unions look like pussy cats.
Talking of Brexit, wouldn’t it be the irony of ironies that those most vehemently opposed to Mrs Maybe’s deal and most fervently in favour of screwing the country (possibly screwing the country of course) with a “no deal” Brexit could actually be the ones whose behaviour means we don’t leave. Boris you Buffoon and Rhys-Mogg you pompous ass, in the words of Bart Simpson: eat my shorts!
Whilst there is no legislation to prevent it John Bercow has overstepped the mark with his decision to not allow another vote on Maybe's deal. We either crash out with no deal because there is nothing to stop that despite last weeks vote, or we never leave. What a complete tosser.
No blog tomorrow but back on Thursday. On Wednesday it is north to Telford then the M54 onto the M6 toll before the A14 to Kettering. After that it is the M11, M25 and A21/A26 home to Crowborough
Monday 18th Mar: 10:00
It is a glorious Sunday morning here in Bridgnorth. The sun is streaming in through the back window warming my back nicely. The sky is a glorious shade of blue and the spring flowers are in bloom. Except for my mother’s wrist and other ailments all is well in the world. Or maybe not but let’s keep it positive for once. By the way the River Severn is almost in flood which is one concern for those closer to the river than we are.
What a day of rugby yesterday. Possibly the game of the tournament: England 38 – Scotland 38. England playing for the consolation prize of the Calcutta Cup started off like a well-oiled machine. Some of their play was sublime; quick in thought and deed with the ball doing most of the work. Tremendous forward play setting up the lightning fast backs to exploit the space left by some pretty poor Scottish defending. That off-load by Henry Slade to Jonny May was something else. Kyle Sinckler showing us why he is such a prospect. Tom Curry carrying on his fine form. Ben Youngs playing with pace and accuracy. Great stuff. The injury ravaged Scots had no answer and a humiliation looked on the cards.
Then came the second half. What a transformation. The Scots were rampant with England like startled rabbits in the headlights. On came the Scottish bench; bags of caps, bags of experience and bags of I don’t know what, but it worked. England had absolutely no idea how to react and all of a sudden the shock of shocks not only looked possible but barring that silly penalty with two minutes to go almost became a reality. George Ford sniping through to go under the posts seemed like a dagger to the heart of the brave Scots and rescued King Eddie from ridicule. As has been said Scotland are looking a much better side than results have indicated and appear to have a degree of strength in depth.
Gregor Townsend and his team must have said something at half time to change things but more importantly the players on the field took control of the situation and turned things around. This is where England again failed. They have a coach whose mantra is “worker harder not smarter”. They have a group of coaches who think they know best so for long periods they demand rugby according to the (very thin) playbook. They have coaches who seem to be tactically naïve and when the going gets tough it is head in the sand time. Worst of all they do not have players on the field who will regardless of the playbook make on field changes. You then overlay the “woe is me” attitude exemplified by the whinging Owen Farrell. It is therefore no wonder they implode when the going gets tough and the opposition get going. This is a recurring problem which needs to be addressed.
If King Eddie was a politician would he be a “leaver”?
Did Owen Farrell get away with another blatant shoulder charge?
So to Rome. This was a fascinating game between two pretty average sides. Although it was error strewn it was pretty enjoyable stuff. Italy were the better side but simply couldn’t finish things off. They should have taken the early opportunities for kicks at goal when presented to them and what a shame that Thomasso Allen missed when they decided to go for goal. Sergio Parisse was immense as always. France got lucky. Italy were good but tactically inept, unable to finish off their chances. Relegation? Yes, it should be considered but would Georgia fare any better?
Sandwiched in the middle was Wales v Ireland. I guess no-one had Wales down to win by such a margin, and absolutely no-one would have had Ireland’s only score coming deep into added time. A good Irish mate of mine was very optimistic on Thursday. Post-match he sent me a text asking where he could get a generous serving of humble pie. It was not a great game. In fact as rugby goes it was an arm wrestle. The decision to have the roof opened back-fired on the Irish. A score in the opening 69 seconds was a great way to start but sometimes rebounds back on you (Beccehamians v Crowborough!!!!). Losing George North was an ominous sign. As they say it all worked out in the end. Wales defensively strangled the life out of anything in green that moved. Gareth Anscombe’s kicking was superb and his all round play excellent. Hadleigh Parkes was again sensational and that Welsh back row were like rabid dogs hunting in a pack slathering at the thought of Irish blood. Then there was Alun Wyn Jones. A veritable colossus. A giant amongst giants. When he went down injured early on it was a good job the roof was open as the intake of breath would have suffocated all and sundry present. He led from the front and if there was a brick wall in front of him he would run through and his troops would follow suit without question.
Wales were helped by the referee. 50/50 decisions went the way of those in red. Wales were helped by Ireland. Uncharacteristically they lost their heads conceding silly penalties in kickable positions. Johnny Sexton was woeful. The quality of his play was terrible and his attitude stunk. He was petulant and bad tempered which simply compounded his failings with ball in hand. Taking nothing away from Wales you don’t beat Ireland by that margin and that level of ease by luck and luck alone. The Welsh were tremendous. A Grand Slam in World Cup year. It would be churlish to say Wales are not serious contenders the cup in Japan.
In comparing Wales to England, both with commanding leads at half time, it was obvious Wales knew what to do ON the field to maintain the momentum. England clearly didn’t. Wales approach was one consolidation and building pressure. England’s was……… answers on a postcard.
Finally in Warren Gatland they have a leader off the field who is understated. He shuns the limelight and keeps his own council. In Shaun Edwards in particular he has an inspirational lieutenant with Rob Howley and Robin McBride and Neil Jenkins he has men who know what it is like to be Welsh and lose. Yes, that is important. To be Welsh and know what it is like to lose. They are a brilliant coaching team.
Well done Wales. A joyous day indeed. Be magnanimous and gracious in victory and keep your feet firmly on the ground. As far as England goes a little more humility perhaps and tell that coach of yours that he should focus on his team rather than waste his energy on his childish sniping at others.
Once again let me just repeat it as it has a nice ring to it: “2019 Six Nations Grand Slam winners: WALES!”
Late news as I post this on Monday morning. Hastings & Bexhill kept their slim hopes of staying up alive by beating Park House 24-17. Bromley drop to 10th with H&B in 9th and Park House still in 8th. Much to play for me thinks.
Saturday 16th Mar: 10:00
As I was posting yesterday’s blog I became aware of the horrendous and despicable act of terrorism in New Zealand, an act of terrorism by a white supremacist against innocent people at prayer. It is abhorrent and should be deplored by all decent people across the world regardless of race, creed or colour. New Zealand is a country known for its tolerance. People should be allowed to voice their opinions but this is not just a step over the bounds of acceptability this is a leap into the abyss. The fact that it was streamed live on social media is another indication of how low social media has got and despite the protestations of companies like Facebook they are responsible for the decline in decency in society and in some cases the demise of decency. For the record I closed my Facebook account some months ago in disgust at the company’s denial of its failings.
My thoughts go out to those affected and the people of New Zealand in general.
Talking about rugby seems wrong at a time like this but life must go on. Doing anything else is giving in to extremism no matter from where it comes.
Today is a huge day for rugby. Can Wales do it? King Eddie is obviously rooting for Ireland and has been as usual not talking about England but talking about everything else. His attempt at mind games quite frankly is pathetic. He should be worrying about Scotland and not about Wales’ fitness levels or whether Wales have the bottle for the fight. Gatland is right to tell King Eddie to mind his own business. To me it smacks of arrogance in that he is believes he has nothing to worry about from Scotland and has to time to comment on everything else. I would normally be very supportive of England but because of King Eddie I will be cheering Scotland on tomorrow.
If anyone has a right to gripe it is Joe Schmidt. It does seem if Wales have broken protocol by asking the 6 Nations to have the roof closed. In this tournament it is the visiting coaching team who have the say not the organisers. The weather is forecast to be grim but that doesn’t change the normal etiquette of things. As it happens the organisers have concurred with Ireland and the roof will be open. Who will this benefit? No-one if it hammers down with rain!
The big story is the offer of £5bn over 12 years for a stake in the new global league. If my maths is right that is £34.7m per year for each of the twelve unions that will be involved. Doesn’t seem much when you have to sacrifice the negotiating rights to any other deal. The unions will also need to understand what else they will sacrifice if they are blinded by the money. Then you read that the company proposing the deal is led by a nephew of that crook Sepp Blatter who was proven to be as corrupt as they come. Mmmm!!! A number of the unions have already expressed concern about the deal and the impact on the domestic game. The players view won’t change unless they get a cut of the action and/or their clubs get a cut of the action. I can see this becoming as toxic as Brexit where by thinking the grass is greener on the other side the only people who benefit are the charlatan money men who have no interest in our wonderful game other than feathering their own nests. In my humble opinion, which I am allowed to express, this deal stinks, as does the CVC deal in relation to the 6 Nations. I am sure those who covet the money will disagree but down here at the grassroots I see it as a recipe for disaster.
I am hoping today we will enjoy a veritable cornucopia of rugby; open running, crunching tackles, great skills, high drama and much more. Sadly I fear an afternoon of the equivalent of mass sumo wrestling where one set of giants ploughs into another set of giants time and time again. Hey Ho!
Before I go I watched Question Time last night but don’t normally because it does funny things to my blood pressure, in a bad way. I commend the SNP for the united front they have portrayed from start to finish in this whole Brexit soap opera. However, can someone explain to me how Scotland can achieve independence and stay in the EU without having to have a very hard border between the rest of this glorious kingdom. What a bunch of morons after all. Then there are the Tories. I genuinely feel sorry for Theresa Maybe despite her pig-headedness as she has been stabbed in the back by two faced clowns who are only interested in themselves. Then you have the accolytes of Corbynov so smug decrying the Tories for everything that is wrong and how divided they are. That smugness is misplaced when you scratch away at the surface and see the divisions in that party are as wide and as vitriolic as any other party, and worse, the leader is at odds with everyone. What makes it troubling is they have the sinister Momentum group acting as an evil puppet master in the background. Bottom line is Brexit has broken British politics once and for all. I despair at the lot of them, all 650 plus, especially those arrogant enough to believe they know best when their life to date has been birth, school, university, House of Commons. Where is their experience of the real world? Nowhere, and don’t get me started on the House of Lords.
Back on Monday with reviews of today
Friday 15th Mar: 10:00
Another trip to Bridgnorth, another part of the NHS to be dealt with. Yet again I cannot fault the service. Seen within five minutes of the appointment time and the staff were amazing. Rhodri, mum’s physio, was looking forward to Saturday and Wales lifting that Grand Slam trophy. There are 80 minutes of toil ahead of that happening and even then there is no guarantee. Ireland are an excellent outfit and whilst they haven’t shown us their best to date you never ever write off the Irish.
They have been forced into a number of changes including the selection of the excellent Tadgh Beirne. Previously a hero for the Scarlets and rapidly becoming a hero for the green hoardes. Can Johnny Sexton and Connor Murray marshal the troops around them and get Ireland onto the front foot against Wales’ defence.
Wales have welcomed the news that Liam Williams has recovered from the knock that saw him leave the field early against Scotland with delight. Williams has been in superb form both in attack and defence and it would have been a serious blow if he hadn’t made it. Gatland has kept faith with the 23 that beat Scotland leaving Biggar on the bench as Gareth Anscombe starts in the pivotal #10 role. I think Sexton, the wily old fox he is, will be a bigger test for Anscombe than anything he has faced to date.
Where will it be won or lost? The breakdown and tackle area. In Moriarty, Navidi and Tipuric Wales have real class but so do the Irish: Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander will be more than a force to reckon with. The lineout has been a weakness for Wales. Get that right and it will be another source of good ball. The defensive wall is crucial. Ireland get behind that and Wales are in trouble. Likewise with Josh Adams in fine form Ireland will need to be on their mettle too. Finally, the penalty count. This is like the TV favourite “Pointless”: the lower the score the better on that measure.
Italy v France could be the game of the day. Certainly two stirring anthems to get the game going. France have made a number of changes after being shown up by Ireland. I don’t think changing the team helps. Changing the coach might help but it is all about the state of mind. The French are very patriotic and a very proud nation but on the rugby field they sometimes seem to lack passion. I will stick my neck out and suggest if they are as lethargic as they were against Ireland they could well lose.
Then there is the Calcutta Cup. Eddie Jones, somewhat surprisingly in my mind, has dropped Big Joe Cokanasiga for Jack Nowell. King Eddie is a fan of Nowell for his tireless work rate but in my opinion he can be flaky tactically and will be less intimidating than Big Joe thundering down the wing. Henry Slade returns with Ben Te’o dropping to the bench. Hoorah! Slade is a player with some variation to his game rather than the usual tactic of imitating a steamroller. Mark Wilson and Ben Moon also return. Congratulations to Ben Youngs who will become England’s most capped scrum half. For England he is having a great season. It is a sizeable bench with the Fijian Nathan Hughes and Brad Shields warming their backsides in anticipation of action.
Scotland have been hit with injuries with young Blair Kinghorn joining Stuart Hogg and the others on the treatment table. Gregor Townsend has his hands full but don’t write the Scots off just yet. I fear this will be a battle of attrition with Scotland trying to play an expansive game only to be thwarted by England’s defence. This contrasting England’s tactic of kick, kick and kick again until they are ready to smash, bash and crash the Scots into submission. It is a shame with Daly, May and Nowell as a back three there is gas to burn out wide. Manu Tuilagi is staying at Leicester which is great news for the Tigers fans and it could be good news for England. Tuilagi will no longer be distracted by contract talks.
The big question is: are you ready? Three games back to back. Mrs Bleater and I are ready. We have just stocked my mother’s fridge with the beer, the wine and Chinese ready meal for two. (Mum can’t have Chinese because of the sugar content and doesn’t drink). Trout in parsley sauce for her with water.
The next question is who is going to win?
I go for France (sadly) but only just. I go England by a lot but with a late rush of points. In the BIG ONE I go for ………………. Wales if the heart answers. Ireland if the head answers. After all the rankings don’t lie.
We live in hope. Hope that was brought to life with an excellent beer mat sent to an Englishman reminding him of the 21-13 scoreline and how it was time for a “cwrw”. Look it up!
My politics are my politics and yesterday was a day of shame for British politics. You have Labour playing games in order to create a general election. Their intransigence is NOTHING to do with Brexit. You have the Tories split asunder due to the Brexit split. On one side you have the stuck up oiks who want us to crash out regardless. On the other you have the stuck up oiks who want us to remain regardless. You have the DUP being the tail wagging the dog and you have the SNP with their heads up their backsides.
Anna Soubry strikes me as an odious piece of work who wouldn’t know the working man or woman or trans if they slapped her in the face. She has joined the Splitters who want another referendum. Well Dear Anna, if we have another vote which constitutionally would be a disgrace, and that vote comes out as even more in favour of “leave” what would you do? A) Stick your head further where the sun doesn’t shine and hope for it all to go away. B) Start a campaign for a third referendum. C) Do the honourable thing and leave politics and get a proper job working at your local supermarket. Yours Bleater.
Not sure if there will be a blog on Saturday as it is dependent on the library being open but if there is I will cover the breaking news of a possible £5bn heading in the direction of World Rugby. There won’t be a blog on Sunday but there will be on Monday from about 10:00. The library opens at 09:30.
Wednesday 13th Mar: 09:00
Some CRFC stuff first. Sharon Green is doing a tremendous job in getting girls and women's rugby reignited at Steel Cross. On Sunday we hosted five clubs by running the innovative Xrugby format of the game. This enables clubs who might not have full sides ensure girls get game time against like minded teams. The full story is on the website.
To state the obvious the 6 Nations will be on TV at the club on Saturday. Will Wales secure the grand slam? Will England sneak it at the death if Ireland stop Wales in their pursuit of glory? Can Italy beat the French?
By the way make the most of it because the 6 Nations are considering selling their soul to the devil. CVC are sniffing around and if the unions become blinded by the money rest assured that will be the end of the tournament on terrestrial TV and yet another nail in the coffin of our great game. CVC have already invested c.£200m into Premiership rugby for a 27% stake. I believe the clubs no longer have control of their marketing or sponsorship deals as they have been relinquished to CVC. I also believe they have relinquished 27% of their revenue too. Not profit because the clubs don't make any, but revenue. For every £1 coming into a club 27p goes straight to CVC. When you look at that a 30% stake in the 6 Nations is a great deal for CVC but in my view a pretty poor deal for the unions. 80,000 at Twickenham paying say £90 each for a ticket times 30% is £2,160,000. That is money that is no longer available for the RFU to invest elsewhere. Now there is a broad assumption that CVC will increase the unions revenues otherwise why do the deal, but there are no guarantees. The only winner here would be CVC which explains why they are keen to go ahead as their only motive is money, money, money. They are not interested in growing the game in any way, shape or form. The unions are desperate for cash so I fear the worse. More on this on Friday.
By the way any deal with CVC would instantly kill off the global league put forward by World Rugby.
Fascinating piece in the Organ of Truth about how England is becoming a South Sea Island team. Well worth a read.
In the same paper there is much cynicism about Nigel Wray's protestations of innocence and plenty of finger pointing at Premiership Rugby because of their apparent intransigence to investigate or even to substantiate Wray's claims. Being cynical myself I guess that is because there is much that goes on that Premiership Rugby turn a blind eye to as it is in their best interest not to muddy the water. I remain convinced that a breakaway is getting ever nearer and like British politics rugby will spiral down into the abyss and wither and die.
I am off to Bridgnorth later today so no blog tomorrow but back on Friday with team news and thoughts on Saturday's matches. Dan Robson is definitely out due to injury and will be replaced by Saracens Ben Spencer.
The papers' headlines are dominated by the Brexit shambles. It is a right royal....... mess. I actually feel sorry for Theresa Maybe. She has got us to a position where we can honour the democratically decided decision to leave the EU with a deal that potentially keeps close enough ties to Europe to be positive whilst bringing back into our control things like immigration. She has been thwarted by self serving, arrogant, prevaricating dumb wits from all sides. I cannot see any way out of this complete and utter shambles. Have another vote. Let us assume the outcomes says "leave". What happens then? The same dumb wits will still try and thwart the move. The opposite is true too. Further compromise by the EU isn't going to happen so where do we go? Have a general election? Yeah, great idea. Let us vote in a Marxist government led by Comrade Tvarich Corbynov and his politburo bullies. Great idea! We could become Venezuela II. Mind you another period of Tory f... ups is a horrendous thought too. I like to think I am not stupid but perhaps I am. I cannot see any way forward out of this mess that doesn't leave us high and dry on the outside of the EU or tied to it in a way that we don't get any of the benefits but all of the pain of being in the EU. Actually, the people voted to "leave" and as much as I fear that prospect lets put two fingers up to the EU and get on with it.
The M25, M40 and all roads to Bridgnorth beckon.
Tuesday 12th Mar: 08:30
There is only one place to start this morning and no it isn't Brexit. Happy Birthday Mrs Bleater. 42 today......... and if you believe that you'll believe anything.
I read with interest that the RFU are seriously considering scrapping their 7s teams. England 7s have been a source of great success over the years and another route for England's young talent to showcase itself on the big stage. The World 7s series is a well tried and tested and pretty successful formula but with the travel costs alone it must be expensive. Add in the squad, coaches and ancillary staff costs it is quite an undertaking. At a time when the RFU is under pressure to get costs under control it comes as no surprise the 7s squad is in the cost cutting firing line.
Rather than accept the proposed global league is a dead horse World Rugby's pursuit of it is likely to split the international game asunder. World Rugby have done a "Maybe". That is they have ignored the dissenting voices, side-lined key stake holders and basically tried to push ahead with the proposal regardless. Unlike the EU some of the stakeholders, that is Premiership Rugby and the top French clubs are spoiling for a fight. They hold a lot of the cards that will trump anything that World Rugby puts on the table. That is they "own" many of the top players and not releasing them for internationals would devalue any tournament. Once again this about money. The shortage of and the historical mismanagement of it by the unions. Clubs and the Unions have let costs, especially player wages get out of control and they are now suffering the pain of such laxity.
As is always the case I enjoyed Only Connect and University Challenge last night and the lead into both is the Premiership highlights. Yet again some cracking tries, some controversy, big crowds and some interesting views by host presenter David Flatman. Thankfully he didn't pussy foot around the Sione Kalamafoni red card. He too felt Michael Rhodes of Saracens should have seen red. He felt all the yellow cards against Saints were justified. Well done him. He also made an interesting point about the Saracens salary debate and I can see his point of view. If Saracens have broken the rules they should be punished and punished hard. If they are being creative to get the best players to their club and pushing the boundaries as far as they can then good on them. Fair point Reg. I would however want the blazers to close the loophole and tighten the rules as quickly as possible. You have to accept, albeit unwillingly, there is a difference to breaking the rules and bending them.
This is why I am so unhappy about the RFU's guidelines on payment to players. They are very wishy washy, lacking any form of serious punishment for breaking them. Clubs will simply find ways to get around them.
The hype around the last 6 Nations weekend of the season builds. King Eddie continues his banal and unnecessary mind games. He should focus more on the paucity of England's game plan and less on trying to wind up the opposition. Maro Itoje is out due to injury and despite solid performances of late Chris Robshaw has been dropped from the squad. Marcus Smith is included but bizarrely Danny Cipriani isn't.
Scotland have a long list of injuries which now includes Seymour and Kinghorn. I'll stick my neck out and suggest Hamish Watson will start against England.
Ireland have quite rightly accepted their win against France had a lot of positives to build on but France were not very good.
Wales are also keeping their feet on the ground but recognise they a) have been very lucky to date but b) have actually underachieved against their potential.
On a day when soccer is mired in controversy it was heart warming to read about the praise heaped on Bob Cook, one of Under 8 coaches, by a Sussex representative. It was commented how Bob's coaching embraced all the core values of our great game. Well done Bob. You are a credit to the game and a credit to CRFC.
It would be wrong of me not to mention Brexit. Today is a crucial day for this country. I for one will be watching with great interest. By the way, if I had my way I would be investigating what that clown who continually barracks TV presenters outside Parliament with his pro-Brexit comments does. If he is independently wealthy then fine. If he is a pensioner with time on his hands them fine. If he is on benefits then stop them and stop them now. There are plenty of vacancies for town criers.
Finally some news. CRFC very generously allow me to express MY views about rugby, life and politics in this blogs. They are mine and not those of CRFC. I am very grateful for the positive feedback I get but accept there will be many out there who disagree or have topics to discuss or want to add to my views. In order to facilitate this you can now contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday 11th Mar: 08:30
Having read The Bards excellent match report and revisited my own missive I stick by my assessment of Saturday. We didn't play badly. We were well beaten by a very good side. A side that is now in 2nd spot ahead of Vigo in 3rd by virtue of points difference. Vigo had the dreaded bye week. I am pretty sure the extra week layoff added to the free weeks to accommodate the internationals has not helped us.
The other thing last weekend has reinforced is this is a very competitive league and nothing is yet decided. Lewes are favourites for the drop with Park House possibly playing their "get out of jail free" card after their 49-6 win over the Sussex outfit. Hastings & Bexhill are also in the frame after losing away at Old Dunstonians 41-17. Bromley too are looking nervously over their shoulder with Pulborough travelling home with a 14-35 win in the bag. Pulborough and ODs being the only teams whose fate mathematically has been decided. They can't go down and they can't go up. Folkestone put on quite a show thrashing Old Willies 71-7 to stay in the hunt for promotion. Right now there are four teams in the race for the title and the same teams in the hunt for promotion. Being 12 points clear still leaves us as favourites BUT NOTHING can be taken for granted. At the other end Lewes, H&B RFC, Bromley and Park House are all in danger. Mathematically Old Williamsonians could be caught but the stars would have to be seriously misaligned for that to happen.
In Sussex 1A Uckfield must have been long on the promotion celebrations losing at home to Eastbourne. Only their second defeat of the season. Crawley are definitely in the play-off after beating Burgess Hill. In 1B East Grinstead endured the dreaded HWO. That often happens on international weekends.
Up now into London 2 South East. As expected the fate of our good friends The Greenies and Aylesford Bulls has been decided. They are relegated after losing at home to Gravesend 5-29 and Thanet Wanderers 0-53 respectively. Both have three games left to salvage some pride and plan for next season. At the other end of the table Beckenham remain in the driving seat despite their loss at Haywards Heath 30-20. Horsham run of good form continued with an excellent 21-69 win at lowly Dover. Horsham are now 2nd in the table. In the other games Deal & Betteshanger beat Charlton Park and Old Colfeians beat Maidstone.
In London 1 South the race for promotion remains very tight indeed. It is now advantage Medway after they beat Westcombe Park. Sevenoaks slipped up away at Camberley and drop to 2nd. Brighton got back on the saddle with some aplomb beating Tottonians 50-29. They are 4th behind Camberley. Three sides now on 90 points chasing Medway on 91. Hove sadly suffered another heavy defeat losing 75-7 at Dartfordians. Chichester beat Chobham 39-22 and are safe from any fear of relegation. Chobham on the other hand are relegated along with Hove.
In the highest echelon of London rugby Tunbridge Wells came away from CS Stags 1863 with a fine 19-31 win. Mathematically they can still be relegated but this win is another important step to safety. At the top things got even tighter. Sutton & Epsom are still top despite losing at home to Guildford. Wimbledon are on the same number of points in 2nd. Westcliff are not out of it but losing at Tring didn't help their cause.
In the National League 2 South TJs excellent run continued with a home win over Dings Crusaders. Worthing on the other hand have been finding things tough. This week losing away at Barnes. With five games and thirty points at stake they are far from safe. Rams and Canterbury lead the hunt for promotion.
It wouldn't be Monday if I didn't tell you how (my part time home of) Bridgnorth performed. They beat Newport (Salop) 18-7. My other destination of choice, Salisbury, beat Beaconsfield 19-31.
Before signing off for today a word about Ireland. They have set up an intriguing encounter with Wales next weekend. Their win over France was workmanlike with Johnny Sexton and Connor Murray finally returning to form. For those who wear the green shirt I am sure they will be delighted and already telling the IRFU to clear the trophy cabinet for the World Cup. A tad soon in my opinion. As good as some of the play was and how impressive the individual performances were this was a win against a pretty ordinary French side. They lacked the je ne sais quoi of French rugby. Yes they were thwarted with some excellent defensive work but I would advise the Irish supporters to keep their feet on the ground. A win next week would indicate Ireland are back on track, and that is a distinct possibility, but until then I suggest they reflect positively on the win but with the caveat it was a fairly ordinary French side.
SORRY, I meant to say our 2s lost to Rye in a very competitive game and The Crows came away from East Grinstead with a fine win. Well done all.
Gloucester put on a very positive show at Quins. They are in fine form with Danny Cipriani and Ben Morgan leading the charge.
Finally can I suggest we brace ourselves for another turbulent week of politics. Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit. Your choices are "Leave" and to hell with it, take Maybe's deal, or "Remain". There are no other choices and in my very humble opinion Maybe's deal is problematical.
Sunday 10th Mar: 09:00
Let me start by banishing any accusations of sour grapes, hypocrisy or any other form of mis-reporting; we were beaten by a better side yesterday, possibly by a much better side. Beccehamian's off-loading, support play, defensive work were all excellent. Their big number 4 was everywhere and for such a big lad he had a delicate touch when off-loading. Their #12 cut us apart on several occasions. When we had the ball our pick and drive was thwarted all too often. However...................
It was not all as it seemed. I think even the most one-eyed of Beccs supporters would agree that two of their tries should have been ruled out. Somehow the referee missed a clear knock-on in the run up to one try. Later there were a catalogue of Beccs mistakes that somehow resulted in Crowborough being penalised. Yes, I have refereed. Yes, at this level. Yes, I know how hard it is. Yes, I was totally bemused by that decision, sadly along with many others. Yes, that decision led to another Beccs try.
There were other frustrating things about the day but one sticks out. I follow football. I like football but get frustrated by some of the antics of players, especially when they dive around as if hit by a shell from an elephant gun. It happened yesterday and it was quite frankly appalling. A shameless act that conned the referee. Move on!
Whilst we didn't do ourselves justice it wasn't all bad. We scored five well deserved tries, two of which were late on when perhaps other teams would have had their minds on a hot shower and a few beers. Matt Botterman led from the front from start to finish book-ending the game with two outstandingly powerful and pacey runs for scores. The back line showed glimpses of skill and dexterity. The much smaller pack performed well at scrum and lineout. Alex Purnell and Callum Main were tireless in the forwards and Tom West and Bertie Boast worked hard to keep the Crowborough's side of the game moving at pace. The try bonus point puts us one point further clear of Beccs and Vigo. The gap is now 12 points.
Let me cycle back to the top. Beccehamians played extremely well and more than deserved the win. We didn't play badly which makes the plaudits Beccs are getting even more deserved. Perhaps the scoreline was a little flattering but that would be churlish to say.
A number of things are clear. Beccehamian v Vigo in two weeks time will be a cracker. We cannot take anything for granted. This is still a four team race for promotion. Full league round-up tomorrow.
A quick dash home to watch the internationals. A game of two halves in Murrayfield. Wales dominant in the first and totally under the cosh in the second. Josh Adams try was a thing of beauty. Individual skill of the highest class. Jonathan Davies' try was well taken and Wales looked as if a comfortable win was on the cards. Scotland hit by a string of injuries from minute one came out of the blocks for the second half like whirling dervishes. The introduction of Hamish Watson added an edge and despite Ali Price moving to the wing because of injuries Scotland were excellent. Wales were lucky but the harder they work the luckier they seem to get. Sir Shaun has got his charges working like a well oiled machine. Tackle after tackle driving the blue hoards backwards. Scotland could rightly be aggrieved by the lack of a yellow card as Wales infringed and infringed again in the red zone. It wasn't to be as Wales weathered the storm and sealed it at the death with another Anscombe penalty. Liam Williams going off looked serious but today's reports indicate it is not as bad as first thought. Whilst on he was excellent. Hadleigh Parkes was brilliant and a worthy man of the match. Ireland up next.
Then it was off to Twickenham for the English demolition of Italy. The Azzuri started brightly but once that enormous English cohort of tanks got up to speed they were tough to stop. I wanted to see Italy do well but in most respects they didn't, in fact for long periods they were poor. England were simply too good, and too big. That said I was horrified to see a number 8 and a prop kicking ahead. What has the English game come to. Joe Cokanasiga was excellent and might just have cemented his place for next week against Scotland. King Eddie made changes late on after the game had gone flat and error strewn. Are England back on track to win the World Cup after this game? No! Italy were poor and other teams are unlikely to crack quite so easily under England's power game. What the game does do is put England back on track for the title if Wales fail in their bid for the Grand Slam.
How frustrating it is to see swathes of empty seats in the East Stand long after the second half has started. I am sure the RFU are delighted with the revenue but for us at the grassroots of the game who can't get a ticket or do get a ticket at the exorbitant prices charged it is frustrating. Frustrating because many of those quaffing the champers and scoffing the prawn and cucumber sandwiches are not involved in the game on a week by week basis. It is what it is and if the revenue is reinvested back into the grassroots then keep quaffing and scoffing.
Domestically wins for Newcastle, Bristol and Exeter. Relegation is far from decided. Even Leicester Tigers could be the ones to go!!!