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Preview to Guernsey (a) 05.05.12

04/05/2012

Kissimmee, chartered surveyors and the water-boy: Island rivals gear up for local derby

Although it was shaping up as a big game for months, it might have been stretching a point (there's a first time for everything) to describe Jersey v Fylde as a global media event. But I rest my case: another successful live stream of JRFC action by Channel TV last weekend reached - among other places - Sydney, Perth, Cairo, Jakarta, Kissimmee (Florida), San Diego, Alicante (hi Cooky) and, er, Lytham St Annes.

This weekend it's back to a local rivalry, and surely nobody outside the Channel Islands will be paying attention when Jersey and Guernsey face off for the Siam Cup, which they have been contesting annually since 1935? Even the populations of Alderney (denied the semi-final berth that they get in football's Muratti) and Sark might not be glued.

However for the rugby communities on the two Islands, in fact for Jersey and Guernsey identity as a whole, this as a deep-rooted rivalry, and it matters. That's the message that Jersey Director of Rugby Ben Harvey has been repeating to his squad this week in a bid to make sure that players have their 'match-heads' on this Saturday. He knows that a three-rung gap between the two clubs in league status is no guarantee of vistory.

With civic receptions and other public appearances, invitations to sundry pubs and specially-brewed Champions Ale, there have certainly been distractions, but these will need to be put to one side as the 22-man squad fly over on Saturday morning ahead of the 3pm kick-off.

Jersey may not have quite the same levels of support as two weeks ago, when an estimated 400 made it to Coventry for the win that sealed the National One title, but it looks likely that more than 200 supporters, plus around 100 players and coaches, will be travelling over, further evidence of the ongoing importance of the fixture.

News from the Jersey camp
Ben Harvey witnessed a Siam Cup defeat in 2008 when he was in a player-coaching role, but Jersey have not been defeated since he took charge of the club that summer, and he doesn't want to start now.

The seriousness with which Harvey is approaching the fixture was shown when he announced a 22-man squad at training earlier this week. There were only two changes to the starting XV from the Fylde game last weekend: retiring forwards Jim Brownrigg and Steve O'Brien replaced by the Clyde-Smith brothers Toby and Charlie.

Brownrigg's boots haven't quite made it to the top peg in the loft yet - he was one of five forwards named on the bench, along with James Gethings, James Voss, Eoghan Nihill and Ross Kenwright. Ed Dawson and Brendan O'Brien are the reserve backs, as they were against Fylde.

In a late change, Eoghan Nihill was promoted to the starting XV on Thursday with Nick 'Barrel' Trower failing to recover from the leg injury sustained against Fylde. Guy Thompson switches to No8 with Tim Corson added to the bench, and hoping to be involved after being an unused sub in the game against Tynedale last November. The news wasn't all bad for Barrel, who qualified as a Chartered Surveyor on Thursday - well done him!

Jersey: Dai Maddocks, David Felton, Ben Evans, Toby Clyde-Smith, Nathan Hannay, Charlie Clyde-Smith, Eoghan Nihill, Guy Thompson, David McCormack (capt), Ross Broadfoot, Chris Levesley, Michael Le Bourgeois, Donovan Sanders, James Copsey, Glenn Bryce. Subs: James Gethings, Ross Kenwright, Jim Brownrigg, James Voss, Tim Corson, Brendan O'Brien, Edward Dawson

History of the Siam Cup
According to a family history of the Forty family, the Siam Cup was presented by CH Forty, an officer based in Siam with the Durham Light Infantry, in 1912, however it was not used as a rugby trophy until 1920, and was first contested between Island sides in 1935. Further historical information can be obtained elsewhere on the JRFC site.

The dangers of complacency by the higher-ranked side, Jersey, have been underlined in recent years. On the last two occasions that the Siam Cup has been Jersey's last game of a promotion-winning season, they have lost.

In 2005 Jersey took the London 3 South-West title by a large margin. A week after the final league game, Guernsey claimed a 28-24 win at St Peter - their first Siam success in a decade.

Three years later, Jersey won another promotion after a London 2 play-off victory over Staines. A week later, and Guernsey were 22-13 victors at Footes Lane.

2008 was the Sarnians most recent victory. Since then Jersey have won further promotions in 2010 and 2011, but in both these years the Siam came as part of the build-up to the climactic games against Ampthill (the National 3 championship game at Twickenham) and Loughborough (the National 2 play-off), with players playing for their places. On both occasions a focused Jersey side inflicted heavy defeats.

Last decade of the Siam Cup
2002: Jersey 23 Guernsey 8
2003: Guernsey 0 Jersey 27
2004: Jersey 32 Guernsey 22 (the smallest margin among nine straight Jersey wins)
2005: Jersey 24 Guernsey 28. A second-successive home game for Jersey due to development work at Footes Lane in Guernsey. International referee Donal Courteney sends off Jersey's Roger Quirk, and sin-bins his colleague Steve O'Brien, in a fiery encounter, and a 74th-minute try by Tom Smit seals the win. The 4-point winning margin is the smallest in any Siam Cup since 1988 (Guernsey 12 Jersey 8) and before that the 3-3 draw in 1978
2006: Guernsey 13 Jersey 38. An easy win for Jersey, and another flurry of cards including a red for Matt Banahan in his second and final (to date) Siam appearance. One of Guernsey's water-boys invades the pitch, a move he quickly comes to regret. Oh, and the whole thing is captured on video and placed on Youtube
2007: Jersey 8 Guernsey 17. A gritty away win for the Sarnians in the lowest-scoring Siam since an 18-3 win for Jersey in 1991
2008: Guernsey 22 Jersey 13. Guernsey lead 10-8 at half-time and 15-13 with minutes to play before sealing the win through a late try
2009: Jersey 34 Guernsey 6. Two Tommy Turner tries help Jersey to an easy win in a game refereed by Luke Pearce, then aged 21, who has since gone on to the Premiership and IRB Sevens circuit
2010: Guernsey 0 Jersey 36. Ashley Maggs gets two tries, altho' Jersey's pack outdoes the backs with tries by Trower, Brownrigg and Kemp
2011: Jersey 73 Guernsey 5. An 11-try rout, with James Copsey and Donovan Sanders both claiming hat-tricks, sparks fears about the future of the Siam.
Overall tally (according to 2004 Siam Cup programme): Jersey 55 wins; Guernsey 13 wins; 3 games drawn

Guernsey squad
The home team show just two changes from the final league game of the season, a home win over Hove two weeks ago. Hove centre Henry Foy appears to have missed his flight home, as he has joined up with Guernsey and comes in for Barry Goude in the home back line, which also includes talented youngster Luke Jones, who made his debut for England Under 18 Clubs & Schools in April after attending the same divisional trials as Jersey's Chris Levesley, who injured a hamstring while representing the London & South-East division. The other addition to the squad following the Hove game sees Luke Sayer brought into the starting XV at wing with Sam Stables moving to the bench.

Guernsey: Simon Sharrott, Bradley Choules, Cameron Craine, Sam Stevens, Lewis Hillier, Tom Ceillam, Robin le Coq, Nick Barton, Malcolm Barnes, Blair Campbell (capt), David Davison, Jason Batiste, Henry Foy, Luke Sayer, Luke Jones. Subs: Layton Batiste, Darren Bellingham, James Regnard, Nick Merrien, Andy Bailey, Sam Stables.

Guernsey RFC History
Guernsey Rugby Union Football Club was founded in January 1928. Although there are records of rugby union being played in the Island as far back as the nineteenth century. The game gave way to soccer until the Guernsey Rugby Club was formed. Initially the club only ran one side and had a membership of twenty to thirty people. The club now runs three senior sides, a youth team and a very active mini's section.

The first team has competed in the English national leagues since 1987. Guernsey and Jersey were last in the same league when they competed in Hampshire One in 1994/95.

In the Siam-Cup winning season of 2004/05 Guernsey finished second in London 4 SW and were promoted to Level 7, at that stage just one level behind Jersey. In subsequent seasons the Sarnians became a stronger presence at this level, finishing 10th, 5th, 4th and 7th before taking the runners-up spot in 2009/10, only to lose a play-off at Hove by 17-14. But in 2010/11 they took the league title. Guernsey's most recent home defeat was by Trojans in the final game of that season: the Hampshire side won by 16-15 but Guernsey got the bonus point they needed to finish one point clear in the table.

In 2011/12 Guernsey lost just three games - at Old Elthamians and Sidcup in September, and against Portsmouth the following month. They have since won 18 straight matches, enabling them to win London 1 South at the first time of asking. The Greens finished with 111 points, three ahead of Old Elthamians (who subsequently won the play-off), and a F/A points record of 951/ 317. Guernsey will play their rugby at National 3 SE - level 5 - when the new season starts in September.

Other rugby this weekend
There are also three other games taking place on Saturday. Guernsey Vets and Jersey Vets will fight it out, perhaps literally, for the Nash Cup at 10.30am, Guernsey Ladies will play Jersey United Banks Ladies at 11am, and the Fallaize Cup between the 2nd XVs will be at 12.45pm.

Elsewhere, it is the final day of the Aviva Premiership with a shoot-out between Wasps and Newcastle at Adams Park - the visitors need a 5-0 win on match-points or to win by a 24-point margin to overcome the financially-struggling hosts. In the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals Bedford host London Welsh on Friday evening, while Bristol (the only team who can actually be promoted) travel to Penzance on Monday to take on Cornish Pirates. Finally, on Saturday Richmond host Caldy from Merseyside in the National 2 promotion play-off.

And Finally
Among a large contingent of visitors for the Fylde game last Saturday was a fellow from 'oop north' called Geoff Dent, making his first visit to Jersey since 1962. Early in that year, Geoff was posted to Guernsey and went up to the rugby club, where they realised he could play a bit, and before he knew it he'd been selected in the team for the Siam Cup.

Geoff recalled a day of terrible weather, with flights delayed and the travelling Guernsey squad switching to the harbour, only to be told 'no boats today'. On returning to the airport they were able to get on a flight at about 4pm and made it over to Jersey for the first Siam Cup to be played at the new ground at St Peter. Guernsey won 3-0 and their side that day also featured Mike Engleman, who subsequently played many times for Jersey and was JRFC President prior to current incumbent David Lapidus taking over.

This really is the last preview for the season, so for the last time for a while -

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

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