Thursday, 23 November 2017

Light Blue Through and Through


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Wednesday 22 November 2017 at Grange Road
Result
Cambridge University 53 Steele-Bodger XV 22
Competition
Traditional warm-up fixture for the Varsity Match in December – the 70th anniversary of the fixture.
Hopstats
Not a new ground – been here several times both during and since my own student days.  I’ve watched rugby union at seven different venues and have no detailed records from my twenties. Young readers take note!
Context
Micky Steele-Bodger CBE played for Cambridge University and England in the 1940s before his career was ended early by injury. Since then he has served rugby union with distinction as administrator and leader, but in today’s context there was great celebration of the fact that this is the 70th time he has put together an opposing team for the university side.  It is a fixture that has its roots and traditions in the amateur era.  Oxford University may well have their own routines and traditions as the December showdown approaches, but this blog takes the view that a tiny atoll in the South Pacific, just jutting through the surface of the ocean as the result of a long-dormant volcano and maybe with a single palm tree for comic effect, should be plenty of room for all the people who need to care.  Light Blue is the colour all the way on here.

At a personal level, teaching commitments have almost always prevented me from joining a band of young-at-heart relics of a bygone age for whom this fixture has been at the heart of a regular reunion event.  The game itself is flanked by beer, curry, breakfasts (note plural), conversation, reminiscences and beer, and what happens at the SB gathering, stays etc etc.  I am pleased to have been here, and I hope to be back on solids very soon.  Gentlemen, thank you.  You know who you are.
In one sentence
A feast of free-flowing rugby union in keeping with the fixture’s heritage, a whopping win for the Light Blues with maybe some concern about the number of points conceded down the right flank.
So what?
Hopefully no injury worries before the Varsity Match at Twickenham on Thursday 7th December.  CURFC lead the series 35-33 with two draws.
Match Report
Many photographs were taken before kickoff with Mr Steele-Bodger himself at the centre, and regular rugby fans will recognise several familiar faces including Scotland’s Gavin Hastings, the university captain in 1989.


Once the match started, the Light Blues built up a healthy lead with three tries.  The first was a burst from Jake Hennessey through the middle of the defensive line and gave an easy conversion for Mike Phillips too.  The second came from Hennessey’s chip kick from centre to flying winger Henry King which was then eventually grounded nearer the posts, before an easy conversion was missed.  Then a breakaway try from deep, a long run by Chris Bell finished with an unselfish pass to Tyler Hammond, was itself converted by Phillips to make the score 19-0.

The Steele-Bodgers got on the scoreboard when a grubber kick bounced off the defender and Coventry’s Kwaku Asiedu scored from the right wing.  The try was converted by Lawrence Rayner of Ampthill.

The students removed any doubts of a shock result by scoring two more tries before half-time.  The first looked a rather dubious decision – many spectators in our corner felt that Rory Triniman had lost control of the ball in a tackle as he tried to make the conversion position easier.  The kick was missed anyway.  Then Matthew Watson scored under the posts.  A Phillips conversion gave us the half-time score of 31-7.

An unconverted try for Archie Russell from a left wing move increased the lead before Asiedu intervened again.  He ran from half-way down the right and there was no catching him.  This was unconverted so the scoreboard at this point read 36-12.

The university then worked another good loop move before scoring in the left corner again through King’s second try of the game, and then Hammond had his second too after a break through the middle from a central scrum.  The second of these was converted by Phillips for a score of 48-12.

Bodgers worked a kick-to-wing move of their own to score an unconverted try by Tom Hughes on the right wing, before the Light Blues went through the direct central route again to cross the half-century mark with a try from James Elms.  The supposedly easy conversion was thwarted by the post.  So, 53-17 before a mazy run by the Bodgers’ full-back, Cambridge’s Joe Green, set up an unconverted score in the corner for James Beaufils of Randwick District.  Final score 53-22.

It had been clear for some time that international referee Wayne Barnes was determined to referee a game without a penalty, and both sides bought into that ambition.  To do so meant (in my opinion) ignoring one blatantly high tackle, but in the end the game was completed, as ever, in good sporting spirit.  The university side looks in good shape and there was plenty of fluency and fluidity.  For the spectators, today’s event is as much social as sporting, and most of the crowd here will re-gather at Twickenham in two weeks.

Ground Pix
  




Match Pix
  





Pre-Match Entertainment
For the record, our group unexpectedly ended up as Team Clueless in the preceding night’s Pub Quiz at the splendid Champion of the Thames.  After a faltering start with American Artists and a botched attempt at the bonus question, we rediscovered our competitive streak and secured a runners-up position which will fly proud and high on our combined list of academic achievements.

After a couple of breakfasts, there was time to stroll.  It has dawned on me in later years that I had my eyes turned downwards too often during my student days.  The rooftops themselves are magnificent entertainment in their own right.  Four years at Selwyn College (next door to the ground) played a huge part in shaping my own life and career, and it looks as if the city might have still have a say in my health and well-being in years to come. Here’s a taste of the city’s atmosphere and architecture, snapped during a morning walk.  Some of the rest of the weekend is a bit blurry, but it certainly involved breakfasts.



Queens' College

Trinity College

Isaac Newton,Trinity College


Clare College


King's College Chapel

23 West Road, my home for Summer 1977 and site of my finest moments in croquet ;)

Cripps Court, Selwyn College, home from Oct 1975 - June 1979

Old Court, Selwyn College

Selwyn College Chapel


What Next?
Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Decisions are usually last-minute at this time of the year because of weather considerations.  If all is meteorologically favourable, and my rehab is complete, then the Saturday shortlist comprises the Step 3 grounds at Merthyr Town, Whitby Town and Athersley Recreation (Shaw Lane’s landlords).  Otherwise, something more local that can confirm that it is on in time for me to travel.


Saturday, 18 November 2017

Best Decision I Never Made


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 18 November 2017 at Giant Axe
Result
Lancaster City 4 Coalville Town 2
Competition
Northern Premier League (Step 3)
Hopstats
626 on the lifetime list and I am here because of the result of this Twitter poll.  Thanks to everyone who took part. Lancaster scored 51% of the vote to choose from the three unvisited Step 3 grounds on my shortlist for today.
I


Context
13th plays 15th in the division, so mid-table respectability for both sides.  Lancaster are unbeaten at home.
In one sentence
Lancaster chose the classic good-time-to-take-the-lead, in the 45th minute, and they pulled away in the second half before a late second for Coalville.
So what?
Lancaster go up to 10th, Coalville drop a place to 16th.  The unbeaten home record is intact.
Match Report
Kevin Phillips of WBA is without doubt the classiest warmer-upperer I have ever seen, but I watched the Coalville pre-match first-time-shooting drill with some concern.  It took 30 shots (honestly) before someone hit the target.  To be fair, only one shot left the stadium.

When the game started, the first item of note was a prompted minute of applause in memory of club legend Neil Marshall, who died a year ago from cancer having played nearly 500 times.  Lancaster almost scored as the minute ended but a timely tackle from Lee Torr saved the day.

Another good clearance, this time by Kyle Dixon, was necessary as the home side started positively, and it was something of a surprise when Nat Watson received the ball on the right, cut inside and had a lot of space to score for Coalville with a powerful left-foot shot.

Lancaster were unfazed and visiting keeper Matt Coton saved well from Hannu Tam.  The pressure built. After a set piece, defender Steve Williams stayed up in the box and his aerial presence led indirectly to an equaliser.  A first chance was cleared but the ball fell kindly for Craig Carney who scored with the outside of his right foot.

Coalville came back with a training ground corner routine, the ball coming back to a player holding deep.  However, Lancaster took the lead just before the interval.  A good save by Coton delayed the goal, but a resulting knockdown gave Carney a chance to volley his second.

At half-time, someone won the raffle prize, which was tickets for a boat trip to the Isle of Man.  Whether they were return tickets was not made clear, so good luck to the winner.

The second half started in the same competitive fashion.  The “If only…” moment arrived on the hour.  Daniel Creaney’s header went across the keeper but went just wide, and the striker’s reaction confirmed that it had been a good chance.  Coalville then worked another training ground routine from a quickly taken freekick.  It must have been very frustrating for them when Lancaster scored their third on the break.  Ryan Winder timed his run from midfield to shoot unchallenged from a central position after a move down the right.

The fourth came from a similar build-up and was a tap-in for substitute Charlie Bailey.  Finally, Coalville’s second was awarded by the assistant, who was in a decent position to confirm that a looping defensive header had crossed the line before being cleared.

Good entertainment for the passing neutral.

Ground Pix
I rarely have a bad day when I cross the gravy-on-chips line heading North.  Everything about today was above average.  The welcome at the turnstiles, the food, the programme, the location and the ground itself.  It ticks a lot of boxes for the traditionalists.  It is less than five minutes’ walk from the station and multiple types of train are clearly visible during the game – West Coast main line, the DMUs of the Morecambe branch, and the occasional freight train.  I can see why Twitter sent me here – the hive mind knows.  All it needs now is a migrating bunch of spotted flycatchers or something and some people would never leave. 












Match Pix
Lancaster City are known as the Dolly Blues.









Pre-Match Entertainment
A walk round Lancaster in the sunshine.  A particular highlight was a statue of Queen Victoria, mounted above frescoes of all the great scientists, engineers, leaders, writers and thinkers of the day.  Today she presided over a Christmas market.  For what it’s worth, I think Tony Pulis could have a new career as a Gladstone impersonator very soon if he loses the baseball cap.






Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Green beats Orange, as we have come to expect over the last 125 games.

Results so far:
Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis. For new readers the odd .5 was caused by a shocking half-and-half shirt and the .1 was due to a substitute goalkeeper in a different colour.  The Fire Cracker colour was confirmed with the help of the social media team at Dulux UK, and it deserves to be last, trust me.  All of this arises from a comment attributed to Petr Cech that orange is the best colour for a goalkeeper because it changes the behaviour of other players around the box.


P
W
D
L
GC
CS
Pts
PPG
Red
9.0
4.0
1.0
4.0
9.0
3.0
19.0
2.111
Maroon
4.0
2.0
1.0
1.0
6.0
1.0
6.0
1.500
Blue
30.1
12.0
6.0
12.1
47.0
10.0
45.0
1.495
Grey
41.5
20.0
9.0
12.5
68.5
11.0
55.5
1.337
Green
67.0
34.0
8.0
25.0
114.0
17.0
81.0
1.209
Orange
26.5
9.0
4.0
13.5
44.5
5.0
11.5
0.434
Purple
11.0
5.0
2.0
4.0
25.0
2.0
2.0
0.182
Yellow
27.0
7.0
6.0
14.0
57.0
5.0
-5.0
-0.185
Pink
14.0
4.0
4.0
6.0
29.0
1.0
-8.0
-0.571
Radioactive Bile
12.0
5.0
0.0
7.0
26.0
1.0
-6.0
-0.500
Black
5.0
1.0
3.0
1.0
14.0
0.0
-8.0
-1.600
White
1.9
0.0
0.0
1.9
4.0
0.0
-4.0
-2.105
Fire Cracker
1.0
0.0
0.0
1.0
4.0
0.0
-4.0
-4.000

What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  There will be a rugby union diversion in midweek as I take in Cambridge University’s traditional warm-up match against the Steele-Bodger XV before the Twickenham showdown with Oxford in early December.