Thursday, 31 May 2012

Is it time the RFU took heed??

After the full length of the playoffs for the championship has now finished, whether you agree or disagree with the system, London welsh have been crowned the league winners.

The large downfall with being the league winners is their ground does not make the grade for premiership rugby. To combat this intelligibility for promotion they managed to strike a deal with Oxford utd for a ground share now qualifying them for the promotion they have earned, and for Falcons relegation.
In their wisdom only know to the RFU this application has also been refuted and again London welsh are destined for another season in the championship.

By many the whole playoff system is deemed as a joke and that the team who finish in first should earn the promotion, being Bristol who's ground is eligible for premiership rugby. But the playoff system is in place so the teams must accept the rules and try to succeed in that medium.
Over the last few years the RFU has been criticised for the manor in which it has been run. Before the Rugby World Cup the organisation itself was in disarray with members leaving and heading into the tournament with uncertainty in the hierarchy. They have also been accused of running it as a business concern as opposed to a national sporting concern, shortly after q disastrous world cup announcing record profits for the year. England are considered as one of the top rugbying nations but at the moment their systems and management skills are beginning to turn them into a mockery in the rugbying community.
Is it time as a governing body took stock of the way in which it is being ran and looked at all systems of the club rugby set up before they are the joke they are rapidly becoming.

I personally am opposed to the playoff system and feel it needs to change, but in this instance I am supporting London Welsh in their appeal against the RFU.

London Welsh statement on appeal

The London Welsh Rugby Football Club Board met this morning, May 31st and it was confirmed that the club will be appealing against the RFU ruling that London Welsh have failed the Minimum Standards Criteria and therefore cannot be promoted to the Premiership.

"We shall be lodging an appeal in the very near future and in parallel we are pursuing all other available opportunities to make sure we can take our rightful and deserved place in the Aviva Premiership".said Bleddyn Phillips, the club chairman.

The one small worry I have is the day before the announcement of London welsh's promotion being declined Newcastle Falcons were making signings for next season. A club on the cusp of relegation making signings such as Rory Lawson, ex-Bath pairing Higgins and Crockett to name three of the eight, theese are players I could not see being enticed to a championship team. So is it possible that Falcons were already aware of London Welsh's fate?
The announcement on the day of the first leg of the final was also very poor timing and quite detrimental to the players who believed they could be competing for a chance of premiership rugby. Luckily it was not to dampen their spirit and two fantastic legs of rugby was displayed, giving a good advertisement for championship rugby.

Good luck to London Welsh in your uphill battle and RFU swallow your pride and listen to the fans who support you!!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

What a final!

Tigers and Quins lined up on the hallowed turf of Twickenham for the Aviva Premiership final after two different passageways to meet up at HQ. Quins have been riding high at the top all season whereas Tigers have fought back from second bottom to hit second top.

With both teams coming through the playoff semi-finals it seemed justified for the top two teams squaring up top fight out the title. Both teams have shown some top class rugby and we're deserved finalists and set the scene for a high class showdown to end the season.

From the moment the whistle blew Quins showed their tactics for this heavyweight bout, they were going to go hard and fast and take the game to Tigers. It took just two minutes for Quins to get on the board with Tigers infringing under the pressure and Nick Evans to happily slot the penalty capitalising on their pressure. Five minutes later Tigers still under the kosh allow Evans another stab at goal, but manages to ping it of the post and misses. The let off for Tigers was short lived as two minutes later Quins fast phase pack action released Williams to breach the try line giving Quins an 8-0 lead in less than 10 minutes. Evans didn't manage to convert the extra two points but Quins looked fully in command.

One of the first occasions of Tigers gaining territory ended with young George Ford putting the first three points up for the Tigers. After the lively looking Danny Care kicked down field deep back into Tiger land an error saw Evans make up for the two missed kicks by slipping over another three. Tigers drew breath and once again went in the offensive breaking into the Quins half, this time Quins infringed and then gave ref Barnes chatback and marched back a further 10m giving Ford an easy 12m kick.

A line out to Quins just inside the Tigers half saw the ball turned over and a spritely Dan Cole charged through flipping off an offload to Mafi who showed a huge turn of pace and sprinted from the halfway line, the Tongan crossed the line allowing Ford to add the further two and game on.

With Tigers in the lead for the fist time of the game they hoped to take the advantage into halftime wasn't to be as Waldrom was pinged for deliberately killing the ball and gaining a sin bin for his efforts dropping Tigers down to 14 for 10 minutes. With a 40m kick lined up it seemed Evans had now found his boots and helped himself to q further three points giving Quins a one point margin lead at the interval.

Not long into the second half and tigers infringe again leaving it one more time for Evans to capitalise with another three points to the tally. Quins now had their tales up again and care was looking sharp. Putting all of his off field antics behind him was showing his form was returning, a neat little grubber from Care and more slick offloading saw Brown then Monye denied but Barnes went back to an earlier offside. Once again Evans duly accepts the offer slotting an extra three points and Quins looking to stretch their legs.

Re-enter Waldrom to see a nine point tally scored during his 10 minutes on the naughty step. Back to full force Tigers were starting to put some phases together, but handling errors and a forward pass to Tuilagi were halting their progress. Quins were still maintaining there pass out of the tackle regime eventually saw man of the match Robshaw drop over from two metres out. Shortly after a collapsed scrum saw Evans step up once again and take the score up to 30-13 and leaving Tigers an uphill task for victory.

Tigers looking down the barrel of a 17 point deficit with little less than 15 minutes looked dead and buried, but as always you can never count them out of a game. With the bright thinking Ben Youngs taking a quick tap and go saw him jink into the Quins 22 pop the ball to a waiting Allen who dabbed down beneath the sticks and letting Ford convert for two more. Tigers now starting to play with pressure secured a penalty for Ford to have a stab at. Ford who we must remember is only 19 years old and playing with great conviction and maturity took the three points leaving Leicester a converted try behind.

As the fixture was drawing to a close Quins took the decision to shut up shop and try to run the clock out and secure the win. Not always a wise move when you're playing such a formidable side as Tigers. Quins lost possession allowing Tigers to counter act, two penalties later Tigers had an attacking line out deep in Quins territory and 50seconds on the clock. The epic finale to an epic fixture was written could Tigers get the converted try to take it into extra time? Leicester threw caution to the wind and piled every last ounce into one final flurry, only to concede a penalty infront of the post leaving Quins to kick the ball into row z and be crowned Aviva Premiership champions.

Two sides battled out a hard fought game in a fantastic finale to a good seasons work. Quins now join Leicester and sale to become the third team to finish top of the table and win the final to be crowned the 'true' champions! Congratulations to both teams on the game and especially Quins on the win!

Now onto next season......

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Playoffs- farce or fair?

A hot topic at the moment is the promotion and relegation between Premiership and championship. The RFU guidelines say that even though it looks like London welsh are favorites to win the championship playoff final they are not eligible to gain promotion due to their ground not being up to scatch. Even though Welsh look to be the victorious side against Cornish Pirates, who also aren't eligible for promotion, the team who were eligible to go up were also the team who finished top of the league- Bristol. Bristol who share a ground with Bristol Rivers and have done for many years, should be aggrieved by the whole playoff system. I was always led to believe a league is award consistent performance and a cup is to award one off performances. So what is the championship a cup or a league? The RFU really need to look at this and reassess.
By the furore surrounding the fact nobody will gain promotion it allows Falcons to escape relegation, leaving them safe to continue in the top flight. The bizarre thing is before the announcement about London Welsh Falcons have announced a multitude of new signings, hinting they may of know prior to the RFU's decision. As we all know if Bath were in Falcons shoes we would all be happy with the ruling, as with the rec the way it is Bath would not get back up for some time. This does still not make it acceptable!

On the point of league winning Quins should be declared Aviva premiership champions as they finished in the number one slot. But due to the set up of the competition they now have to face Tigers in the premiership final. The favorites to take the title this year are Tigers due to a late show of form and now looking to take the crown. With the playoff set up as it is during the season your aim is to finish in the four to be eligible for the title.
To put that in to perspective take a look at the football premiership where Manchester's United and City finished on 89 points and Arsenal on 70 with Tottenham on 69. A large void of 20 points from first to fourth and yet in rugby on their ruling Spurs could of been crowned champs, how would Mr Ferguson and Mr Mancini of taken that decision? Of coarse that's only speculation as football is a different entity to rugby.
Since the introduction of the playoffs only two teams have finished top of the table and won the final, Leicester Tigers in three occasions and Sale Sharks just the once. The team who have gained the most from the system is Wasps, crowned champions four times without being at the top of the table. Wasps played the system fantastically in which three years in a trot they successfully picked up the trophy in 2003/04/05. The biggest losers in the playoff scheme is Gloucester who have finished in pole position three times, on one occasion finishing 18 points clear of Wasps only to lose in the final. The one time that Gloucester pulled off a victorious bout in the final was against Tigers in 2002, even though they did pull off the win Tigers were still considered the champions.

We as a whole seem to have learnt to accept the playoffs but does it make it right and a fair way to decide a season's performance?? Is it a farce or fair.......

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

What to do with the Rec?

With all the embargo going on with the championship promotion happening, are their grounds eligible for premier standards. Lends itself to a topic of will the Rec ever be redeveloped or will Bath have to eventually move?
The Rec and Bath rugby go hand in hand since the late 1800's. As all fans know the ground and it's facilities are below standard for top flight rugby, but you still can't help loving it. Due to the capacity and facilities if Bath (god forbid) got relegated and the sought promotion in the RFU regulations I believe promotion would be denied. The topic has gone on for an age but still no actual outcome. Since purchasing the club Bruce Craig has stated he wants Bath to remain at the Rec with a top spec stadium, but hasn't ruled out the ground.
If Bath moved to another site I think it would be a sad day, but eventually it would have to be a necessity for the club to progress. I am confused by the people who protest against the Rec's redevelopment as the club have been in that site longer than their existence, so have always been aware of its use. On a match day the centre is buzzing and bringing in extra revenue to the businesses.
It seems a shame smaller clubs cannot seek premier status due to their grounds when Bath's is so poor. I for one wish to see the improvement of the site and see Bath become proud of the ground rather than it being considered a joke by other clubs.
Will the Rec ever be sorted or will the club relocate? I hope the answer comes soon.....

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Welcome to the new Legatus Legionis!

Finally all speculation and rumours are now done and dusted. Today we finally had the news we'd all been anticipating and expecting, yes the worst kept secret is confirmed.
After weeks if not months the rumours of Gary Gold coming to Bath to take the helm after the departure of Sir Ian McGeechan was confirmed by the club. Other speculative inclusions to the coaching squad have also been revealed as truths.
So without further ado I wish to congratulate and wish a good luck to the new boys in town. Mr Gary Gold, Mr Toby Booth, Mr Mike Ford and Mr Neal Hatley all coming to form an almost super group of coaching staff to link up with Brad Davis to resurrect Bath like a Phoenix from the flames.
As Bath fans we all live with expectations but also an eternal optimism. Our dreams of returning to being a dominant force in English rugby are alway obvious at the beginning of each campaign. This season it was far from the desired result. With such a topsy turvy season being rewarded with no Heineken cup rugby next year dealt a harsh blow to the hearts of the Blue, Black and white faithful.
With the new line up it us still unsure who has which role other the Gold who is the head honcho, particular roles are to be disclosed at a later date.
This evening Gary Gold and Neal Hatley took the time to respond to the well wishers on Twitter to say thank you and they are eager to get to grips with the Bath empire. This was a bold and very respected thing to undertake showing they have a passion to take the club forward.
We will have to see if the new collective are the men for the job but as always the Bath fans will show faith, belief and hope!

Lets hope the Legatus Legionis can lead the centurians to victory!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Is anything possible?

D-day is almost upon us!! The last Aviva premiership bout of league games, one bumper episode of matches to see who finishes where.

The main event will be the relegation scrap between Wasps and Falcons. A match that can see the Falcons rise like a phoenix from the flames and pull off a resurrection of a magnitude almost on a par with the reason we celebrate Easter. If Falcons secure their premiership status and sink Wasps to the championship it will only display the turnaround that Gary Gold has implemented up in the Notrh East, does this bode well for him as potential Bath Rugby DOR?

The game that may be of an interest to the Blue, Black and White faithful is a small fixture against a familiar foe in the form Leicester Tigers. This age old gladiatorial battle has always been of a huge relevance to either teams season. On this occasion it is Bath wanting and needing to be crowned victorious, a bonus win and a sale loss could potentially see Bath nestle into a 6th position. For all results to fall into Bath's lap would be almost close to a miracle although there is always hope.
Bath facing the Tigers at this stage doesn't fall at the best time but can they succeed in the face of adversity? Unfortunately for Bath a potentially weekend scrum due to injury could see an uphill struggle for the fixture, three very key players absent in the guise of Louw, Caldwell and captain Hooper will certainly make it a long day for the pack. The biggest challenge will be to contain the ferociously rampant back line for Tigers, their comeback against Quins demonstrated their strength and resilience which would concern any side in the premiership. Tigers are wishing to secure a home semi-final tie in the play-offs and produce their 10th victory in a row.
With Bath missing the captain and sub-captain, Hooper and Louw, the baton has been issued to a man who plays with so much passion and a future Rec legend-Lee Mears. Possibly one of the most passionate and gutsy men to take to the field could drive the rest of the team forward to victory. With there being a few player signing off tomorrow the hope and expectations for a dream send off will be rife through the squad. So can captain Mears lead the boys in Blue, Black and white out to a monumental victory at Welford's hoping!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Honest or Brazen?

Today on 'This is Bath' saw a quite frank open and honest interview with Bath rugby and ex-Leicester player Dan Hipkiss, talking about his time at Bath so far and a return to Welford road this Saturday for the last fixture of the Aviva premiership.

Some may have very different views on his openness and quite frank views on Bath's campaign this year. Some may say congratulations on your honesty and no holds barred opinion of the teams on and off the field attitude, others may say how could he judge a team he has barely played for (due to injury) and not even been at the club for 12months.

The supporters of Dan Hipkiss' views have a point. For a player in top flight rugby to come out and quite harshly criticize his and the squad performances is quite a brave move. For all Bath Rugby's fan's the awareness of the indifferent season Bath have had is all to apparent. With a player of his calibre to state the fan's views is a very bold move and displays that all has not been a bed of roses in the camp this year. Since his arrival from the Tigers last June he himself stated that fitting in to Bath's playing style difficult plus being blighted with injuries, it's not been the dream start to his career in Blue, Black and white.

As the nay sayers will certainly point out how could he so openly share such disparaging views on a team he's barely been part of. With only a hat full of performances to his name for Bath and only 1 score to his name why should he feel the need to criticize his comrades in such a harsh manner. Yes the team has been poor but for a colleague to be so critical will surely do him no favours in the camp. While Bath go to Welford road to attempt the double over Tigers in the premiership and salvage some respectability to the campaign, Hipkiss will be returning to his old stomping ground to prove his worth for Bath. But has his comments damaged his respectability with the players and fan's?

Here's the link to his views so make your own choice of which camp you fall.</p>