Saturday, 9 December 2017

Light Blue is the Colour


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Thursday 7 December 2017 at Twickenham
Result
Oxford University 10 Cambridge University 20
Competition
The 136th Varsity Match
Hopstats
Third time I have been work-free on a Thursday to get to this fixture.  Not a new stadium for the list as I have also been here for Schools Finals days and several internationals.
Context
Results-wise, Oxford have had the better season, but Cambridge arrive in good shape after their warm-up victory at Grange Road over the Steele-Bodger XV (see recent blogpost).  Weather forecast for the afternoon was thankfully better than the horrendous morning but conditions will be tricky for amateur players.  My friends and I noted these conditions from the warmth of breakfast at Bill’s in Richmond followed by several pints, lunch and more pints at the Prince’s Head on Richmond Green.
In one sentence
Closer than the score suggests, but a deserved win for the Light Blues.
So what?
Cambridge lead 63-59 with 14 draws since the fixture was first played in 1872.
Match Report
This is a retrospective I-was-there post.  It was great to see Selwyn’s Buchan Richardson starting at Number 8 and even better when he touched the ball down in the corner in the early minutes.  However, first impressions were confirmed when the video referee (or whatever they are called) ruled it out.  This was going to happen three times to Cambridge as light blue followers wondered whether missed opportunities would be back for haunting purposes later on.

Mediocre snap captures the ball and Richardson's hand but fails to prove that he was tackled into touch
The first half was dour in difficult conditions.  Each side spent long periods in turn encamped in their defensive 22, with only the occasional penalty or other error giving a chance to break out.  Both defences held well, but with Oxford looking faster and more fluent in the passing game.

The deadlock was broken by Cambridge scrum-half and man-of-the-match Chris Bell.  The pack pushed Oxford back at one of their own scrums and Bell went through for the try.  The relatively easy conversion was missed in Twickenham’s notorious conditions.  Oxford captain Conor Kearns landed a penalty, and Cambridge missed one.

The invisible referee with the TV set also ruled out two more scores for Cambridge before the half-time whistle came with the score at 3-5 and the result very much in the balance.  To be fair, the decisions looked correct.  Cambridge captain Charlie Amesbury was held without grounding the ball, and Jake Hennessey had received a forward pass.  It looked as if this game would come down to impact subs and fitness in the last quarter.

Mike Phillips restored a five-point margin with a Cambridge penalty before a long delay for an injury to forward Andrew Hunter.  Maybe that enforced break meant that there were fewer errors due to fatigue in the closing stages.  Oxford made their substitutions earlier.  Cambridge missed a good chance when the last pass of a cross-field move went astray before Archie Russell scored in the corner to give some breathing space at 3-13.

Oxford came back strongly and Will Wilson finally breached the Cambridge line for a try, converted by Kearns and so the margin was back to only 3pts at 10-13.  It was going to be a tough 15 minutes.

Fortunately it was Cambridge’s turn to be on the attack, and their pack delivered the winning score with a drive from a line-out, getting the ball to full-back Amesbury to go over the line.  Phillips converted to give a ten-point lead and there was insufficient time for Oxford to close that gap, especially now some clean-shirted fit-and-ready light blue subs were in the defensive pack.

This was an effective rather than an effusive performance by Cambridge, but this is a big occasion in the student rugby calendar and the result matters more than the style.  If I am not plucked back into science teaching by then, I’ll be back next year.

Ground Pix
The lower tier is used and the atmosphere is not unlike Non-League finals day at Wembley.



Match Pix
  








What Next?
Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Nothing definite in the diary, and decisions at this time of year are often last-minute because of the weather.


Saturday, 25 November 2017

Martyrs Will Survive Unless it's Dorchester Flash in the Pan


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 25 September 2017 at Loadlok Stadium (Penydarren Park)
Result
Merthyr Town 1 Dorchester Town 1
Competition
Southern League Premier Division (Step 3)
Hopstats
Ground 627 on the lifetime list.  I am here from a shortlist of three because there were more shots on goal (26) in the SECOND period of last night’s NHL ice hockey game between Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets.  The first and third periods had been linked to Athersley and Whitby.  It’s random-ish.  See previous post for details of my niche.
Context
Dorchester are in the lower half of the table but will have noted that Merthyr (aka The Martyrs) lost 13-1 at Chesham last week, as did everyone else in football.  The development side fulfilled the fixture after a turbulent week off the pitch.  Since then there have been boardroom resignations from this fan-owned club, the creation of an interim board, a huge and well-supported financial appeal, and a week of exhortations to the locals to #packthepark.  Local papers, Argus and Echo, gave some reasonable coverage to the financial issues and the public support of Cardiff and Newport managers (Neil Warnock and Michael Flynn), alongside the pages and pages of rugby.  The All Blacks are in Cardiff and that clash kicks off just after this match ends.
In one sentence
Dorchester coped well with the occasion and a draw was probably a fair result.
So what?
The clubs lie 14th and 20th.  First signs are that Merthyr will have enough backing, and enough character on the pitch, to survive as a club and even hold on to their Step 3 place.  They probably need about another 18 points or so, with plenty of games left.  Dorchester may feel that today was two points dropped but near the bottom an away draw is usually not to be turned down.
Match Report


Members of last week’s development team were introduced to the crowd before kickoff and received a heroes’ welcome.  Once the whistle went, Ian Traylor could have given Merthyr a dream start with a good turn in the box but his shot was over the bar.  Dorchester weathered that early storm and the first half-hour was pretty ordinary but earnest fare in the sunshine.  The visitors had a half-chance of their own from a fluffed clearance.  After the half-hour mark, the game settled into a more open and adventurous phase with Merthyr threatening to take the lead.  The exact opposite happened after 37 minutes with a classic away team counterpunch.  Dorchester poured forward when the ball bounced for them on the left flank.  A dangerous cross was duly volleyed in by Blake Davies.  Good goal, and they saw out the rest of the half.

Merthyr’s equaliser came fairly early in the second half.  A through ball found Adam Davies in an advanced position and he set himself well for a good, calm finish as the keeper came out.  Game on.

The home side showed visible belief that a win could be had.  Kerry Morgan shot just wide and then a deflected Traylor volley hit the post.  Dorchester’s Twitter feed suggests that it hit both posts, but I was unsighted.  The two sides continued to slug it out, mainly in midfield and with defences on top, keeping up a reasonable level of entertainment for this passing neutral in the encouraging crowd of 923.  We were somewhat entertained too by the ever-increasing number of detailed announcements about cars and vans to be moved from the vicinity.

At the end of the day, Dorchester did enough as the away side to earn their point and Merthyr certainly did not deserve to lose.
Ground Pix
Lots of them today.  This place is a good example of why I have become a daylight groundhopper in the last couple of years.  Lots of character and an interesting setting.













Match Pix
Merthyr are in the white-and-black.







Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Green drew with Orange today which has no effect on the standings.

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
68.0
34.0
9.0
25.0
115.0
17.0
81.0
1.191
Orange
27.5
9.0
5.0
13.5
45.5
5.0
11.5
0.418
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?
Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Always difficult to plan ahead at this time of year but my four “priority” Step 3 grounds to complete “The 232” landmark are: Ashton United, Tiverton Town, Whitby Town and Athersley Recreation (Shaw Lane’s landlords).  In the event of bad weather it will probably be somewhere closer to home.  Coverage of the Varsity Match (rugby union) will also follow in early December.