Saturday 24 November 2012 – 3.00pm
St Peter, Jersey
RFU Championship #10
I’ve been to Jersey before, when I was just a few months old. I got ill, and the doctor refused to tell my parents I had German measles because we wouldn’t have been allowed on the boat but they were strongly advised to get me home.
30 years later, I hope to actually stay for the whole planned time this weekend, not least since I’ve been looking forward to this game since, well, before Wasps in May, when we away fans sang about the island in the English channel with a population of just under 100,000.
Jersey has been in the news recently with allegations that HSBC holds accounts of tax evaders there. I had a look at our hosts’ squad the other week and recognised only one name, former Leicester fly-half Ross Broadfoot. Amazingly, he works for HSBC on Jersey according to Google, though a global markets associate is probably not involved in anything dodgy. I don’t know if any of their players are involved in Jersey’s vulture fund legal culture, which politicians have voted to ban.
The Islanders are currently higher than they have ever been in the leagues, following several successive promotions into the Championship. The club appears to have been founded in 1879, two years after ourselves, or at least that is when their website says rugby was first played on the island. They have been at St Peter since the early 1960s and built their current clubhouse in 1994, around the time that Jersey joined the Hampshire league, and the already-lengthy travelling that came with that.
If you thought Falcons fans travel a long way, at least we don’t have to go overseas for every away game. Even their local rivals Guernsey, who Jersey play in the annual Siam Cup, are on a different island, obviously.
Working their way up through the leagues, Jersey were promoted from National League Three in 2009/10, League Two in 2010/11, and then National One in the summer.
As such, it is no surprise that our two clubs have never met before, despite Jersey’s popularity as a destination for touring teams down the years.
After losing a home friendly in August to Leicester by a in-no-way disgraceful scoreline of 21-34, Jersey had a difficult start to the league season and lost their first six league games. Defeats at St Peter to Cornish Pirates, Moseley and Bedford were complemented by reverses at Leeds, Rotherham and Nottingham on the mainland. However, a 20-20 home draw with Pontypridd in the British & Irish (& Jersey apparently) Cup set our hosts up for a four-game unbeaten run.
Also in the cup, Leeds were beaten at York RUFC before Jersey won against London Scottish 20-17 and Plymouth Albion 16-14 on the island. 11 days ago however the run without a loss ended with a 39-16 beating at Bristol. The Falcons will be hoping to follow the example set by the south-westerners and former black Redford Pennycook, who was among the home try-scorers at the Memorial Stadium.
Oops, I hope Peter Herbert didn’t read that last sentence, or I can expect to be reported to the Metropolitan Police.
Jersey did suffer in Bristol however with a rare red card – for Ashley Maggs for a tip-tackle – and two sin-binnings, those offenders Dave Felton and Guy Thompson. Richard Barrington was Jersey’s try-scorer late-on, Donovan Sanders converting, adding to three Mike Le Bourgeois.
On another personal note, this will be my first overseas game since Montauban in December 2006, when I almost missed the 6.30am plane from Gatwick to Toulouse. If I hadn’t already checked in online, I would have. Fortunately myself, wor lass and Scottish Chris are booked a more sensibly-timed flight, so plenty of time for a Falcons beer train out of Liverpool Street in the morning.
Don’t forget the club (Jersey that is) are hosting a jiggy tomorrow night at the ground, with free “nibbles” and all the beer you can drink, though I’d imagine we have to pay for that. It’ll be interesting to see whether this Liberation Ale lives up to its reputation.
This is the kind of weekend we support a team for. With less than an hour left to go in the office for the week, I really, really, cannot wait to get over there tomorrow!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)