Archive for May, 2013

That`s All Folks!

May 30, 2013 1 comment

A little before ten o`clock last night the RFU Championship season finally reached the buffers after nine long hard months as Newcastle Falcons secured the promotion we all knew they would win before a single player took the field back in September.

They were pushed hard by a Bedford Blues side who remain amongst the bridesmaids of Level 2 club rugby in England over the two-leg final, but ultimately had a bit more quality and a lot more money to ensure that Dean Richards` troops got what they came for.

A year ago I drove back from Reading after the Cornish Pirates had lost in the final against London Welsh never having felt so tired in all my life after a long season on the road covering the fortunes of the club. This time they very thoughtfully concluded their affairs in late April to give everyone a proper break but with the start of pre-season for most Championship clubs coming around on June 10th, don`t be surprised if Bedford are a little off the pace come the start of the new season.

From a Cornish perspective the Championship Final was however largely forgotten amidst an outpouring of fervour for the Black & Gold as the rugby public fell in love with the County Championship again.

The tournament, or Bill Beaumont Cup as it is properly known, has been parked in a remote siding for several years now with the RFU apparently unsure what to do with it whilst most County Unions in England have paid it little attention doing little more than fulfilling their end of season fixtures. Last Sunday at Twickenham might have just changed all that though.

As in English football the main focus of English rugby is on little other than the national team and the Premier League. The RFU and elements of the national media should be repeatedly kicked in the shins until this tunnel vision abates because there is a whole world of quality rugby out there rather unflatteringly called “grass roots”.

Just four days ago in the sunshine at HQ some 20,000 (yes, twenty thousand) people watched a belter of a County Final at HQ as the Red Rose of Lancashire proved just a bit too good for the gutsy Cornishmen. Much of that crowd was there to support Cornwall but many had stayed on after a largely dull England win over a truly awful Barbarians side. If any neutrals were contemplating penning letters of complaint to the RFU demanding refunds following that game they probably forgot all about them during what happened next.

There are few teams whose supporters can generate the kind of atmosphere the Cornish did inside Twickenham and as their side fought back to within two points of Lancashire in a frenetic final quarter the electricity generated by the crowd swept even the most steadfast neutral with it and could be clearly felt high up in my commentary position. That the northerners ultimately won was a disappointment to Cornwall but there were no complaints.

What those 80 minutes of wonderful rugby have done is to give the RFU a huge opportunity to redeem themselves next season after years of ignoring this competition. Some really focused PR in the build-up to next May will do wonders but the final again has to be a mid-afternoon affair at Twickenham on the back of a big showpiece game.

I would also suggest that no players from clubs above of the national leagues be allowed to participate in the competition to help ensure a more level playing field. As there is still no national domestic cup competition for these tiers of the game that should be a pre-requisite. It might upset the likes of Hertfordshire who rely heavily on Saracens youngsters to bulk up their squad but there are winners and losers in everything. I would also close the loop hole of dual-registration as a ploy to out-manoeuvre my proposal.

From Cornwall`s point of view they now need to seize the moment and work together to to ensure that they reach the final in 2014. Their pack is top drawer but backs with more pace, guile, and trickery need to be sourced because Lancashire showed only too well how much damage those weapons can do.

There must be no more stupidly damaging parochialism in Cornish rugby. Rivalry, yes, but bickering and needless spats largely brought about by a refusal to change and modernise need to be eliminated.

Cornwall and Cornish rugby wants a club in the Premiership. It wants and desperately needs a new Stadium and in an ideal world would have Redruth and Launceston back in National One, with the likes of Camborne, Wadebridge and St.Austell all knocking on the door of the senior league set-up. Cornwall can be the County Champions again but the only way we will find out if all this can be done is to pull together.

On Sunday at Twickenham Cornwall and the Cornish people came together and did just that. By crikey didn`t it feel great!

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