Well what a couple of weeks of rugby we have had. We always knew these last few games were going to be the telling point of the season and so it seems to be the case. Two titanic battles against Caldy, followed by a tough away trip to Luctonians (which ended in a defeat), the visit of Hull last Saturday looked a real banana skin. Hull are a big team full of quality and with injuries and players missing, this game looked a bridge too far. Not one bit of it. We all remember, the champagne rugby wins, the big try score lines but for me the best performances, and the ones you most enjoy, are the ones when you are up right against it, against a big handy side in not so good conditions. It’s in these games where you find if as a collective you have what it takes.
The boys last week were tremendous. A ‘backs to the wall’, sleeves rolled up, big defensive effort definitely, but also big phases of really good flowing rugby taking the game to the opposition. A top performance by one and all, and one of the best of the season.
Our visitors on Saturday are Loughborough Students and I’m sure somewhere else in the programme notes you will find the usual in-depth analysis of games past, but will they dare to mention that certain record Students have on us. More of this later. The Students are breathing right down our necks, so this is a must win game for both sides. Loughborough are the team in form
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE RAVERS
Well we all knew it was coming, and so it did, in the form of a great away win at Preston last weekend with a 49-5 demolition of Hoppers. Preston should not feel too bad as this is an excellent Caldy team and we should know, as we have also just received a couple of hidings from the boys from the Wirral. Their performance at Park Lane, a few weeks ago, was by far the best performance I have seen by any team this seaso. Caldy looked the part very much. I know this is not a scientific review but, in my mind, they looked more of a complete and stronger outfit in all areas than they did last time they played us at Park Lane before promotion two seasons ago.
From all at Sedge we sincerely congratulate Caldy on an excellent season and without doubt we wish them the very best of luck next season.
DID YOU KNOW; A RECORD SCORELINE
As it seems a theme this week, ‘the score on the scoreboard does not tell the whole story’ well here’s a story of a huge score-line. Earlier I mentioned Loughborough Students hold a record at Park Lane and that is the biggest away win ever by any side at Park Lane, when in a National One League match they racked up 106 points to 12 win, in what was a last match of the season drubbing. What was never made clear in the game and what was missed was a back story of County over Club. Sedge that season had been relegated and this game was a rearranged game that Sedge never wanted to play but due to incremental funding at the highest possible finish it was highly important game for Students.
That same weekend Lancashire had a semi-final game in the County Cup, something all clubs in Lancashire take very seriously. Originally most of the Lancashire squad was going to be drawn from the Fylde squad, but they also that weekend had an important game to play a game, and with a full squad because their opposition that weekend was fighting in a relegation battle. It was made very clear to Fylde and Lancashire that any thought of Fylde purposely weakening the team and losing the game would be severely frowned on as it would give others a disadvantage.
A meeting was called with the senior Lancashire clubs attending, and it was agreed that both Preston Grasshoppers and Sedgley Park in a highly honourable move would deliberately weaken their first XV teams that weekend so PGH and Sedge players could represent Lancashire. The consequences for both clubs in the league were huge as Sedge fielded a Second team/under 20s and an emerging third team selection against a very useful Students. The outcome was inevitable. A very professional performance by Students as they gave Sedgley selection a lesson to remember. I remembered going into the changing rooms straight after the game and to say there were players there blowing hard is an understatement, in fact a few weeks later some players were still blowing.
What of Lancashire. Come on it was a great win for the red Rose who went onto win the County Cup at Twickenham for a record time.
IT’S A FUNNY OLD GAME
I was in conversation recently with a well to do member of another club in our league. His club has a very unique vison for club rugby one that is totally opposed to how Sedge do things but one that is playing a big part in the development of this members club who I was in conversation with. To be clear there is no right way or wrong way on how a club should be run, financed, structured or even the strategy deployed. What a club its members and players decide is down to them and the best of luck to them.
This particular club has chosen not to have any other XV other than the first XV, no second team, no academy not even a M&J section. They have made it clear and resourced accordingly to have the very best first XV they can get by paying the best and sometimes over the localised salary limits to ensure they get the very best. They have thrown the net out far and wide to catch the playing experience skill sets they think they need.
They have no interest in having the club house filled 7 days a week to maximise the asset, only just on a Saturday where they hope winning rugby and winning rugby at the best possible level, this will bring the crowds to the game and with it not just the Kudos of the winning but the potential media and marketing streams.
I know it goes against the whole development of Rugby Union as we know it and it is a concept I find hard to grasp. Yes, we have seen this concept before played out before with the ‘sugar daddy’ owners of the late nineties and early noughties who would spout premiership rugby in 5 season times or so they say, but would always lead to financial ruin in less, taking some big and traditional names of the game to bottom of the pile. However, this is not that and the argument deployed, although still baffling to me, holds a sense of where we are in the game and what it may look like in some season to come.
The argument is with no leadership from the RFU or funding or even a competitive league structure below the premiership, if you have outside sustainable funding that can propel you to a higher level and maintain and play a part (as in Ealing Trailfinders) in the support of the club, outside sustainable funding that has the best interest of the club at its core, then what’s the problem with the model. With regards to development of M&J most of these players, stop playing before they are 15-16 and then by 18 the clubs find they lose these players to University or worse no university and other clubs wherever the player has opted to go to further their education. This club’s belief is the best always end at 6th form colleges with pathways into county and beyond for player development and its here in these area the club in question spend its time in contact with players playing the long game whilst the players are tied to the sixth form college or university teams playing Bucs level. So, no need for home grown development.
Other age group development, as in a second team is not required due to, what they see as the long-term worry in rugby and that is, player burn out at mid-twenties and disinterest in the game. This is a worrying feature we are all seeing at our clubs. There was much more to the argument proposed for this model and I have not the time nor space here to add more, but however cynical it first came across it seems a structure made for its times.
Personally, I believe every rugby club is a is the flagship that creates interest for all ages and sexes to play the game, whilst also creating a social community for the like-minded to meet and enjoy the sport. However, you only have to see the mess the game is currently in. The RFU leadership, funding, direction, player welfare, competitive league structures, dwindling players numbers highlighted by the state of the game in the North. It makes you wonder where we will be in a decade’s time.
What may sound like a cynical selfish approach to rugby strategy now may turn out to be wise intelligent thinking in the years to come. I sincerely hope not.
ALLONS LES ÉCOSSAIS!!
Do you know those real life changing important moments in life when things happen of either sadness or ecstasy or sporting triumph? You know the exact time it happened, where you were, what you were doing, what you were wearing even. It stays in your mind for ever. I would like to say the Scots win against France at Murrayfield was not one of those moments. Alas for me I was washing my hair at the time and forgot the game was on. So, for me, white noise was the most memorable sound of the day. It usually does when it comes to Scotland!
However for some, and in the case Eddie Aldred, this is beginning of another false dawn. A tale of hope, that will inevitably end up with the wheels firmly coming off following a pool game in the World Cup against some plucky minnows, The Channel Island Presidents XV or something like that. Anyway, a reality check moment. Again.
So, Eddie, I know you enjoyed your day and it will continue again this afternoon. A great effort from Scotland last week. Thankfully no bet was wagered, however I am still waiting for his last failed one. You know the one Eddie. I wager I will never see that. An Excellent win Scotland and well deserved.