Saturday, 15 February 2014

South West London Chargers vs Torfaen Tigers (01/02/14) [RL]

RL Match 9

RL Ground #: 7

Ground: Dukes Meadow (normally used by Chiswick Rugby Club)

Competition: Challenge Cup 1st Round

Kick Off: 2pm

Cost: Free

Programme: None

Attendance: 102 (h/c)

South West London Chargers 12

Tries: Puna 1, Wojciechowicz 1

Goals: Coughtrey 2

Torfaen Tigers 6

Tries: Roberts 1

Goals: Brown 1


That glorious British weather. A country that is already much maligned for its piss poor climate was really getting battered by the recent storms. While it is a minor point when people’s houses are being swept away and Somerset does it’s best Atlantis impression, this weather is not good for football. As Conference bosses voted against bringing 3G pitches in as some clubs haven’t played for weeks, my planned game was washed away and so another sport was required. Good old rugby league, “is there grass?” “is there beer?” “game on.” Good lads.


The Chargers currently play their home games at Chiswick RU in South West London. Chiswick is a district of the Borough of Hounslow and was first recorded in c.1000 as Ceswican. The name “Chiswick” is of Old England origin meaning ‘Cheese Farm’ and originates from the riverside meadows and farms that are thought to have supported an annual cheese fair in the area. Chiswick grew up as a village with its inhabitants practising farming, fishing and other riverside trades. By the early nineteenth century the fishing industry in and around Chiswick was declining as the growth of industry and the invention of the flush toilet were causing pollution in the river. Fish began to die out and the river became unsuitable as a spawning ground. Locks upstream also made the river impassable by migratory fish such as salmon and shad. The population of Chiswick grew almost tenfold during the 19th century and the area is a mixture of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian housing. Suburban building began in Gunnersbury in the 1860s and in Bedford Park in 1875. During the Second World War, Chiswick suffered a number of bombing raids. Both incendiary and high explosive bombs were used, and there was also damage from falling anti-aircraft shells that had not exploded as intended. The first V-2 rocket to hit London fell on Chiswick on 8 September 1944, killing three people, injuring 22 others and causing extensive damage elsewhere.


South West London Chargers were formed only last year as a result of the merger between South London Storm and West London Sharks. Picking Clapham Common as a training base, the Chargers entered the RL South Premier last season (essentially Level 4 in the pyramid) and won the league by a point with a narrow victory against 2nd Hammersmith Hill Hoists. The Chargers ensured the perfect season by winning the London Cup as well and will look to defend both of them when the league starts again in April. Entering the Challenge Cup for the first time (although both Storm and the Sharks did, a 2nd Round appearance for the Storm being the best record), the Chargers trying to improve London’s dismal record in this competition.


The Chargers play their home games at Chiswick RU’s Dukes Meadow ground, which was formally used by the West London Sharks. Chiswick currently play in rugby union’s (boooo!) London North West 2 league which is Level 7 in the RU pyramid. A basic ground which has the clubhouse on entry and then grass standing around the side of the pitch. Close to Barnes Bridge and the Fuller’s Brewery on the other side of the Thames, Dukes Meadow is a ground in a scenic area that on a great summer’s day, would be an excellent place to watch rugby. (The proper version!) The weather was fairly poor throughout the match and the lack of cover wasn’t great (view from the clubhouse overhang was blocked by the crowd!) but the place does the job for the likely low crowds Chiswick RU would have.


In town for the cup tie were Torfaen Tigers, from the South Wales Premier which they won last year. Currently playing at Cwmbran RU’s Kings Head, the Welsh boys would be a good match for the Chargers with both sides being league winners in 2013. Neither side had started their seasons yet and it showed when the game kicked off, with unforced errors all over the gaff. Chargers, however were backed by a good partisan home crowd and were putting the Tigers under constant pressure. Despite both sides never finishing their sets due to daft mistakes, it always looked like the Chargers would open the scoring first. They did on 23 minutes after good work from Nathan Coughtrey allowed Terance Puna to power his way over. The missed conversion attempt highlighted how tight this game would be and with the Chargers unable to score a 2nd try, you did wonder if the London side would regret it. Despite offering very little for most of the first 40 minutes, the Tigers nearly equalised on the counter attack, but the home side held firm.


The Tigers were understandably far better in the 2nd half as they began to push the Chargers defence further back. They also had the added bonus of a strong breeze to assist them going forward and so their 5th tackle kicks were causing the Chargers more problems than usual. The reason they weren’t adding more points onto the board was silly misplaced passes or handling errors with dropped the pressure. It was one of those handling errors which sent the Chargers on their way to the 2nd Round. From a scrum, the ball was worked out wide to Tala Petelo who put David Wojciechowicz away down the wing and he cut inside to get over the line with around 65 minutes played. Coughtrey added the conversion and even scored a late penalty to put the game well beyond the Tigers. You felt that the Welsh team deserved at least some points on the board and with the very last move of the game, a lovely long ball out to Gareth Roberts who had the easy task of going over the line. Luke Brown added the conversion but that was it and the Chargers were through to the 2nd Round.


On the balance of play you feel that the Chargers deserved to win, but it was a great cup tie and an excellent way to open my rugby league viewing for 2014. The Chargers have another home tie for the 2nd Round when National Conference One side Milford Marlins come down from Derbyshire. A tough game for the Chargers and you would expect the Marlins to win, but with home advantage, you never know… A decent day out considering it looked sport was well off when Havant & Waterlooville lost another weather battle. Good luck to the Chargers for the rest of the season, London rugby league isn’t dead. Despite what you read!

Photos from Chargers vs Tigers


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (entertaining cup tie that was always in the balance)

- Value for money: 10/10 (it was free)

- Ground: 4/10 (basic, but scenic venue by the Thames)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (occasionally backed by the home crowd)

- Food: N/A – didn’t eat at game, burger van didn’t look too appealing

- Programme: N/A – they don’t issue

- Referee: Craig Kay – 7/10 (did the job and let play flow as much as he could)

Monday, 3 February 2014

Brightlingsea Regent vs Bodmin Town (18/01/14)

Match 222

Ground #: 176

Ground: North Road

Competition: FA Vase 4th Round

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £1

Attendance: 562

Brightlingsea Regent 3

Holman 5’, Kelly 60’, Gould 88’

Bodmin Town 1

Broomfield 52’


When the FA Vase reaches the national rounds, the ties that really stand out are ones that pit teams from different leagues together. No way on earth would an Eastern Counties League side ever play against a Southwest Peninsula League side in normal circumstances. Yet when the Vase sent SW cracks Bodmin Town on a 325 mile trek to Brightlingsea for the 4th Round, this was a tie that stood out. A first viewing of the Eastern Counties League and a first viewing of SW non-league football for me since 2011.


Brightlingsea is a coastal town in the Tendring district of Essex, situated at the mouth of the River Colne, on Brightlingsea Creek. Named in the Domesday Book as Brictesceseia, the medieval town grew up around two centres, firstly around the parish church and secondly close to the shore where a port had developed. Trade was in oysters, fish, copper and locally made bricks. The Cinque Ports were a confederation of the five most important ports on the coast of the English Channel. They had obligations to provide ships and men to fight for the king in time of war but were compensated by lucrative exemptions from taxation. Brightlingsea became a limb (or subsidiary) port for Sandwich although these days it is a purely ceremonial affair.


The port came to prominence again in the 1984-85 Miners' Strike where attempts were made to import coal through the Port. However the efforts of picketing miners prevented coal imports through Brightlingsea. It yet again came to national prominence in 1995 with an attempt to use the port again for a controversial cargo. Dubbed the "Battle of Brightlingsea" it comprised a series of protests against the live export of animals from the town for slaughter in Europe. During a nine-month period, over 150 convoys passed through the town and 250,000 animals were exported. 598 people were arrested by the police, of whom 421 were local residents but the campaigners eventually won and the live exports ceased.


Brightlingsea United were founded in 1928 by a merger of Brightlingsea Athletic and Brightlingsea Town. Playing their early football in the Essex & Suffolk Border League, they moved into their current North Road ground in 1929 and the Premier Division in 1931. After yo-yoing between the various divisions of the E&SBL over the years, Brightlingsea joined the Essex Senior League in 1972 and won the title two years running in 1989 and 1990 to join the Eastern Counties League for a new challenge. Promoted to the Premier Division in the first season, the upward trajectory suddenly stopped and were promptly relegated in 1993 before resigned from the league altogether in 2003. The resignation caused by a lack of proper changing facilities at North Road.


In 2005, a new chapter started with Brightlingsea United merging with youth team Regent Park Rangers. Back in the E&SBL, Regent won Division 2 at the first attempt and achieved a double promotion from Division 1 a season later. In 2011, nearly 10 years after resigning from the league, Regent were back in the Eastern Counties League after winning the Premier Division of the E&SBL. Under the guidance of boss James Webster, the Regent found their upward trend again and came 3rd in the Eastern Counties League 1st Division last season to be back in the Premier Division for 2013/14.


Regent’s North Road has been home to them for some time and still retains a basic look that it has most likely had throughout its history. A clubhouse with a changing room annex dominates the place and provides a good bit of standing cover for the usual 80 odd that normally attend Regent games. On the clubhouse side is a typical plastic stand that is usual sadly at this level today. Needing a minimum number of seats to achieve certain grading regulations, these quick fixes are never normally aesthetically pleasing or suit the ground well and this stand was no different. While the rest of the ground is hard, uncovered standing, Brightlingsea had used the money generated from the Vase run already to reach national news. Purchasing a similar uncovered plastic stand off eBay from the Isle of Wight, the club’s £5,000 fee for the stand managed to buy them national coverage from the BBC. The ‘eBay Stand’ (name it this lads!) has been plonked in the far corner of the ground next to the far car park to help Regent achieve another grading criteria and provide a tangible memento of this season’s Vase run for the future.

IMG_3306(The eBay Stand)

Before this season Brightlingsea in any form had never really had much of a Vase history, with only a 3rd Round appearance in 2012/13 being their furthest quest. Yet, having already seen off Felixstowe & Walton United (1-0), Stanway Rovers (3-0), Team Bury (1-0), Takeley (2-1) and then Colney Heath after a replay, they were already breaking new ground by reaching the 4th Round. They welcomed the might from the West Country in Bodmin Town to North Road in what was for me, the best looking tie of the Round. Bodmin have local pedigree being joint top of the Southwest Peninsula League and having previously seen them take down a higher level side in the Vase (albeit just over 3 years ago!) coming to Brightlingsea wouldn’t phase them. Having already dispatched of Bemerton Heath Harlequins and Kidlington, this game would be tougher, but I fancied Bodmin.


What I didn’t expect was Bodmin (who had made the long journey the day before) to actually not turn up for the opening spell of the game. Brightlingsea had already caused panic in the Cornish defence, but when a Ricky Griggs’ free kick was whipped in, up went Bodmin keeper Kevin Miller (yep, that one) and a home defender. Miller appeared to be unfairly challenged and a loose ball was flicked on and headed home by Jake Holman for a dream start. From where I was, it looked harsh on Bodmin, but Miller is tad bigger than his professional days so possibly could have used his strength better. Bodmin were all over the shop and only desperate defending and luck kept Regent out from adding a 2nd. Bodmin did get back into it but their anger with the ref increased when Chris Wright had an effort ruled out for offside. Despite beginning to impress forward, the Cornish team still could not defend crosses at all and Holman had a header from a corner smack the bar as Bodmin needed to regroup at HT. Intriguing tie.


Regent had looked ropey at the back and Bodmin needed to get at them for the 2nd half. They did from the off and grabbed an equalizer on 52 minutes. Danny O'Hagan received the ball on the right and just ran at the Regent defence. As they parted like the seas, Seb Broomfield collected the ball and drilled a low shot past Daniel Beeson in the swashbuckling manner I remember Bodmin to be. Regent looked stunned and as passes went astray and Bodmin began to push further forward it looked good for the Cornish side. So of course they fell behind 8 minutes later. In possibly their first foray up the field in the second half, Regent won a corner. The cross was drifted towards the goalie and Miller missed it completely to allow Phil Kelly to head into an empty net. Bodmin looked stunned now and despite a rally back into the game, they never again looked like threatening Beeson. Regent confirmed their place in the 5th Round with a late goal as Josh Gould arrived first from a free kick to head in. This time Bodmin were finished as Regent deservedly went through.


On the way home I did think that whoever met Regent in Round 5 would go through and that will fall to 2012 winners Dunston UTS. They are a lovely club and have come extremely far, but they don’t have the quality to trouble the Northern League side, especially up in the NE. Good luck to Regent for the future though – brilliant hosts and dealt with their big day well. Bodmin were a shadow of the side I remember them as and with the fears that some of the extreme ends of England are starting to become detached from the pyramid, (do you blame them for not going up in the current economy) the quality is starting to suffer. This was a long trip, but as with most Vase ties, one that was very much worth it. If only this rain would piss off eh!

Photos from Brightlingsea Regent vs Bodmin Town


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (war of attrition rather than quality)

- Value for money: 7/10 (paid more for Vase ties so good work Regent)

- Ground: 6/10 (basic, but hopefully doesn’t become a plastic stand fest)

- Atmosphere: 7.5/10 (good noise from the home fans)

- Food: 6/10 (fair bacon roll)

- Programme: 5/10 (looked professional, but light on content)

- Referee: Paul Forrester – 5/10 (so fussy and couldn’t let it flow)

BR vs BT prog