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  1. Managed to get to this although the 5.15 alarm was not ideal. An unusual place for an international, but I assume the fact that Emirates could be reached in an hour 15 by public transport and it was available was the main factor. Although for the Nordik Cup, I assume the two teams found they were coming to the UK and this was then a good idea. Strength wise maybe Southern Conference with some much better players and a lack of experience, competitive games would help considerably. No publicity and short notice kept crowd down to 50 or 60. I would guess 10 at most heading for Arsenal afterwards. Apart from two I sent details of the game to, no one else on first train of Hainault. This is my level and RL and always a close score helps. Absolutely loved it and would be up at 515 for similar next week There was no gate taken and unsurprisingly no programme or memorabilia Poland started well and threatened big scope but Norway fought back
  2. Just in case anyone is going and I intend to as long as my 6.20 train runs, the venue is Ilford Wanderers RU not Ilford FC ground 5 mins for Hainault on the central line. You could park nearby and tube it to Stratford and then to Highbury and Islington and probably avoid a parking charge
  3. First post for a month and 9 days after the event but here goes Kirkburton 44 Garforth 19 Kirkburton are another team who have moved this season and are now nearer to the village but not in it. For anyone who knows non league football a team called Shelley reached level 10 playing at what was Storthes Hall hospital and now university accommodation. The grounds had a number of sports pitches with the main one having two small stands and a clubhouse. Across the car park is a further pitch, used this year by Kirkburton. Pleasant enough and adequate enough but no facilities pitch side. Not impressed by the visitors. They were struggling for numbers right up to kick off but did eventually get up to 16. That can happen to any side but the moaning from the side was awful. Not just at the ref but sledging of the opposition. Game itself was enjoyable enough and the antics of the away side made me less of a neutral than normal.
  4. Aberavon Fighting Irish 34 Rhondda Outlaws 30 It looks like I saved the best of the season until ( almost?) last. Although like everywhere they have had cancellations, the standard is higher than in the community game elsewhere, probably on a par with the Southern conference in the East. Excellent passing and at times defence and some good running played in a good spirit. Rhondda went into the game with 8 wins from 9 and were 6 up in ten mins and had had two attempts held up over the line, an away win looked inevitable. Early in the second half they were at least three scores behind. Two late scores made the final score look close. Speaking to a home fan of FIghting Irish and the hosts, Aberavon Harlequins he suggested there was a play off to come. However 6 players also play for Quins who have there first friendly next Saturday. Possibly a Sunday game or possibly the season is finished, less than two months after it started. Part of the fun of visiting clubs for the first time is looking at the ground and today we had a club house behind the posts and a fully enclosed ground surrounded by houses and a stand for 200 or so on the halfway line and fully railed off. I know Fighting Irish have a posted of that name on here. The decision to go was made late as I was also considering the first qualifying round of the Welsh Cup in football. RL won, as it should but apologised for not making contact but must reiterate as always in Wales a lovely club.
  5. Coventry Bears 42 Leamington Royals 14 I have probably watched Bears more than any other team and loved what they were doing, trying to organise other clubs in the area, taking the game into schools etc. yet whilst using local players, being able to compete with the semi pro heartlands sides. The development was slow and organic and I had my first season ticket in any sport for 35 years. Hurricanes are taking a different path and although I have seen them four times, they do not feel like the same club, so back to basics today, for what is now the only open age Bears team and playing against rivals from the early days. The two clubs are less than ten miles apart and this was the third meeting this season. Going into the game Bears were top and Leamington bottom with one win. The first half did not therefore go to plan for hosts who found themselves 14 down after 30 mins and 14 6 at half time. Injuries and fitness made the second half the opposite and late tries flattered the home side. The game was played at the Xcel centre, used by the Bears many times before but possibly not for the first team. This is a proper community facility, swimming pool, indoor and outdoor courts plus one of two football pitches in use for what I was told were two Somali teams. Cricket was also taking place. I remember visiting the new Colchester United football ground called the community stadium and there was no community around and no other usage. This one is something every town would benefit from and one of the best I have seen. The RL pitch was furthest from the changing rooms and without facilities apart from a rope. About 40 to 50 watching. I am not sure what happens now for the Bears. I don’t think they are part of the Hurricanes umbrella who look more like a stand alone team. Southern Conference is an option but outside London this has been poor recently. Possibly following Nottingham, Derby and Sherwood into Yorkshire
  6. Haresfinch v Ulveston Postponement season comes earlier every year, usually you can find a match easily until early August but an initial plan during the week for Stoke Staffies could not be confirmed as no contact numbers or update internet and nothing on usually reliable visitors website. Kirkburton was cancelled midweek and did not fancy the heat of South Wales where Cardiff cancelled early morning at Aberavon and was nable to confirm Black Dragons on or off. Ulveston confirmed squad for Haresfinch yesterday and back up fixtures and a phone at the ground made this easy to confirm. The effort was rewarded by a decent game and another excellent set up. On entering there is a car park and then a clubhouse and changing rooms with plans on the wall for significant improvements. The pitch was railed off and just enough shade for sun avoiders like myself. The visitors arrived early and scored early but the first half was dominated by Haresfinch. The second half was more equal. Full time 36 26 or similar. I don’t comment on refs as could not do the job myself and nothing notably wrong in any way apart from the fact he blew his whistle after every kick, irrespective of whether kicked hence may be out. Attendance about 150 by the end and a club I could easily support if local
  7. Sheffield Forgers 12 Sheffield Hawks 64 With 5 Saturdays in the month and a trip to London with one of the daughters, long distances trips are not ideal this month. The plan was to see what remained of Coventry Bears who play in the Midland division but the visitors cried off Forgers have however moved from a school field to Mosborough Welfare. This is a proper ground, as is usually the case with former miners grounds. A modern clubhouse with entertainment two nights a week suggests a flourishing traditional venue. The sports fields are adjacent, rugby of both codes on the lower pitch, football parallel at the top of a bank. The teams have already met this season at this venue as Hawks ground is for some reason unavailable. That was a comprehensive win for Hawks. The margin was greater today and mostly one way traffic. i am terrible at recognising players but even I noticed Menzie Yare scoring a number of tries on the wing, plus one with the last move of the game straight down the middle where his pace was enough for today but not what I remember.
  8. Cheltenham Phoenix 4 All Golds 54 A friendly fixture between two clubs who have found their original fixture list reduced by cancellations. The history of the clubs in Gloucester and Cheltenham are complicated and interwoven but at present their is no connection. Cheltenham have always played in the West of England League which lost Reading pre season and then Oxford to the midlands and Swindon A due to struggling for numbers. A three team league was planned but Phoenix had the foresight to arrange additional friendlies, which just as well when the two remaining sides struggled for numbers including a Gloucester based team. All Golds who are a spin off from the league one side that folded are now Bristol based. The match was played at Cheltenham Tigers RU, out of the town beyond the racecourse, a venue I had previous seen soccer on when it belonged to a local company. Smiths Industries. The match was played on the main railed off pitch with a 4G surface, one of those paid for by the RFU. I was impressed with both sides off filed with a full compliment of subs and when there was an injury, people who knew what they were doing. The two clubs had different expectations at the beginning of the season and are at different levels. The scoreline was not therefore surprising but Phoenix played and tackled very well but All Golds were excellent for a southern based team. It is unclear what Phoenix should do for new year, the Southern Conference may be a step too, although it needs teams but a handful of friendliest is not enough for what is a very well organised club. Off to Ebbsfleet tomorrow for Broncos, as with the amateurs anything could happen off the field and hopefully a reasonable crowd especially as they are now playing two games there
  9. Oxford Cavaliers 30 Birmingham 18 There is a fair amount of history here by Southern RL standard with Birmingham playing since 1989 and Oxford Cavaliers since 1996. Just before Covid, Cavaliers decided to move away from sharing RU or uni facilities and made what seemed to be a great decision and take over a barely used village facility where they would be welcomed into somewhere that would otherwise have closed. St Albans were first to do this followed by Cavaliers, Bath and Bedford. A lack of opportunities to play and train ruined this model and Oxford are now playing outside the county at Brackley RU. This is the type of facility amateur clubs should aspire to. Although clearly not possible If there are only four or five home games. There are two pitches, two storey clubhouse with an overhang. The RU club play at the lowest level of the sport so hardly flushed with money. As for Oxford, they are going through a rebuilding phase but have produced a decent ladies team and are trying to rebuild as a club. However at open age level they are struggling and most players appear to be attached to the RU side and they only had 14 including the coach who was not intending to play but was forced on frequently. Apart from a physio there was no one else pitch side to do the kicking tee, water etc. Birmingham had 15 and win the early stages but the home side fought back well and eventually won 30 18 scoring all the later points.
  10. Revisited today for the Keighley game and still so many positives from the club These are mostly off the field but there were some great tackles, two tries against the league leaders and a score slightly better than some would have expected, especially with a man sent off before half time i would estimate the crowd at 500 plus so about 60% pc what I estimated for the first. An impressive number were however supporting the visitors. More importantly the buzz remains, the atmosphere is as good as any in RL. You can sit outside or inside pre gam with three bars including one selling a real ale brewed in the town and the food is good, cake stalls as well as burgers. People have bought into this and are enjoying it. I doubt more than a handful left before the end and I heard nothing negative. It is accepted by most, the year will be difficult and thankfully there were no promises of promotion or super league in 5 years. I think the Cornwall, rather than a town, name and players with a connection to the area was a wise choice and a bus load of players from Yorkshire would not have caught on The hosts are likely to be happy with I assume car park revenue going to them and that would have exceeded £500 today, Although I must admit I would rather walk and did so that pay £5. The bars also did well. Hopefully Cornwall get. A percentage I am a poor judge but consider they played much better than in the game against Hurricanes. Any negatives, not the day in any way and game was competitive. If anyone watched on Our League you will have shared my amusement when Keighley crossed in the corner, the player realised no one was covering and ran towards the posts unopposed. When he was behind them the ball was knocked from his hands. There is a concern with team strength. The club seem to have found and tried almost anyone with RL experience in the area. If only London tried so hard in seeing what is hiding. If they have however missed few possibles, then it is hard to see how they can be stronger on the field. The fans are loyal but a win is needed. Having seen them twice and West Wales once this year, I don’t see why they can’t win the return from a few weeks ago
  11. Saltash Essayons 38 Teignbridge Trojans 28 Not since Hill Hoists appeared in Hammersmith has a moniker being meaningless to me without looking it up, but Essayon is French for let us try. It is a military expression and is more let us try where others have failed and succeed. Saltash is across the Tamar from Plymouth and the team may well have military connections. The people involved in South West RL deserve medals for keeping going and hopefully the new Cornwall team will give a boost to playing numbers with only four teams in the league this year, three in Devon and Saltash. Not just distance and cost have kept me away from visits but more the fact that matches have needed to be 9 or 11 a side to avoid being cancelled No such problem today with 16 v 15 although injuries made it hard and some played longer than they would have preferred. Venue was Saltash RU, no more than a recreation ground with wooden changing room s and bar on one side. This was the first game of the season and for several players the first game of RL hence some kicking on the second or third tackle. There were some good players mixed in and a lot of enthusiasm with plenty of good and tough tackles Score was 38 26 in my mind but 38 28 on scoreboard. With scores level on one version late on, thankfully late tries means this did not matter
  12. Harrogate 40 Skipton Knights 34 The merit table seems to be working well with the premise that teams tend to play each other home and await and if reliable then plans are made for the next year,but clubs that tend to enjoy home games but don’t travel don’t get fixtures. Fixtures tend to only run to late July so RU players can return to training and clubs don’t fail to fulfil later on These two clubs had already met at Skipton The venue was Harrogate Railway FC in Starbeck, This is the working class part of Harrogate.if such a thing exists and as the name suggests, this was a railway junction with sidings in the past. Next to the station are terraced houses but the town was also briefly a spa. It’s fame today locally is for the level crossing which can be down for over ten minutes twice an hour on the main Harrogate Knaresborough Road, a walk around town does not take much longer. The ground has an enclosed ‘stadium’ for football and I think they play at step 6. There i some terracing, seats behind the goal, and a tiny stand presumably for officials on the halfway line. They did reach the first round of the cup fairly recently A second pitch using the same dressing room is unrailed and signed as Harrogate Pythons RU. This was the venue today, Facilities are basic but on a nice day a bench at the top of the slight slope was all I needed. The two teams were equally matched and the lead changed hands frequently until the home team scored three unanswered tries between 60 and 70 mins Both teams looked good in attack, but had not played enough to prevent too much kicking early in the tackle count, showing the players primary sport. Sitting in the sun, parked by the entrance, I enjoyed this as much as Tottenham last week as 50,000 crowds are not my thing as readers may have noticed.
  13. Posting here rather than community game as seems more relevant First nice to meet Eddie, the type of person who is doing something for the game rather than moaning what ought to be done, and as with many clubman, an enthusiast who take time to find and chat to visitors. For the benefit of Hopping mad, also programme editor and bought a few copies to show my delight at the effort being made Visitors were Bedford Tigers A team, a great club, I saw them once in Coventry, against the Dragons, when they travelled with 10 and borrowed others but refused to let down opposition. They had adequate numbers today and although comfortably ahead at half time, the score flattered them. The second half was different, primarily RL experience and fitness the factors. Talking too much to Eddie and another lad from Norwich, I know through a non league football forum, I am not certain of the score and thought one conversion was missed but the whistle was blown. 22 70 is close to the actual score. Anglian play at Wymondham ( pronounced Wyndham ) RU. Excellent facilities and what we should aspire to in the conference but to me featureless especially on pitch 3. The town itself would be a tourist centre in other parts of the country and very pleasant to stroll through. I am sure Anglian will improve and do realise the strength of the opposition today. Like other areas the East needs sides to not just join but become established. With players from many RU clubs and a large hinterland and easy access, I can’t see why not
  14. I struggle to have my own team, initially it was Fulham as. There was nothing else in London at the time and quickly started going away. As a 20 year old, places like Bradley were different to what I knew and I remember getting off a train at Wigan about 4am and being able to go into a club. it all seemed so much better than football. London started to move around and are still spinning around the capital and I drifted away especially as no one else was getting the train. I kept in interest and still fancied a trio to new places but they rarely won when I went. I then didn’t go for a few years and returned to visit the grounds I had not been to as a neutral. Not caring who won meant I could watch the game properly and it was suddenly fun again. I had seen a few amateur clubs at home in the cup and decided to do every round following the winners starting at East Leeds and it was great. Cheap beer, small towns and sometimes long train journey but all very enjoyable. I understand for many people being partisan is essential to watching sport but not being so can be rewarding especially if you have put much into your team. So watch the local teams without caring who wins, stay at home or go to the pub if it rains hard but watch some great sport all for nothing paper from fares. London is a bit of a mess at the moment but within an hour you are in Gillingham, Hemel, Hitchin or St Albans or a little further head for Wymondham and visit the pubs. You could even watch Skolars A which have a different attitude to the semi pro side. However you do this or not, keep in the game it is still mostly great. If you want to meet I can revisit one of the LOndon sides with you and we could possibly get some more off of here
  15. Swindon St George 24 All golds 18 If what has been said in here and what I heard today is true then All Golds are on a win bonus of £100 per game. I have no idea if true but if it is they should win this division. There appear to be only four now with Bath having probably folded. Swindon have previously played at 2 Rugby grounds and a leisure centre but I was told the present venue is the most welcoming. The bar looks quiet and slightly run down and their custom is welcome. The main sport at this time of year is cricket and frequently the sides only venture into the bar for 30mins whereas St George can keep it going until late The club is the Nalgo sports club on the Cricklade Road. The rugby ground is at the far end and lacking in pitchside facilities or much shade. I did not take to the venue but if the club is welcome and roots can be put down that is the important thing. All Golds listed their team on line and it seems very different from last year. Indeed the kicking game was more RU than RL although this did result in an excellent try, a long kick from almost under the posts to the halfway line and then great pace to get possession and put the ball down under the posts. A decent game and I think both will improve in a division that is very hard to predict. I had hoped to see All Golds again next week:at home to Bath but that will be off
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