THE HOME STRAIGHT

It’s tight and it’s going to stay that way. As we go into the final seven games of the season the battle for the promotion play-off spot is building to a hectic finale. Last weekend Henley stated their case with a thumping win over Taunton in their rearranged game and moved into third place. It cut Canterbury’s advantage to four points and when the Hawks come to The Marine Travel Ground in two weeks time it could be a defining moment for both clubs. Before that, however, there is the little matter of keeping our winning run going against Guernsey, today, and at London Irish next week. Both are deep in the relegation zone and that makes them even more dangerous as they fight for survival. Certainly the visit to London Irish has a ‘banana skin’ feel abut it. Just ask Tonbridge Juddians who went there after beating us in the pre-Christmas Kent derby and lost. It is worth repeating that any side in this league can beat any other on their day and, this afternoon, memories of the tough time we had at Guernsey should banish any complacency. There is no such thing as an easy fixture between now and April for the four clubs in contention for the play-off place. None of them, ourselves included, can rely on other results; all must keep on winning and make their own opportunities. This is how the home straight looks for our rivals:
Henley: Clifton (a), Birmingham & Solihull (h), Canterbury (a), London Irish (h), Guernsey (h), Old Albanian (a), Bury S Edmunds (h).
Tonbridge Juddians: Old Redcliffians (a), Dings Crusaders (h), Taunton (a), Worthing (h), Redruth (a), Clifton (h), Birmingham & Solihull (a)
Taunton: Barnes (h), Rams (a), Tonbridge Juddians (h), Old Redcliffians (a), Dings Crusaders (h), Guernsey (a), Worthing (a)

WHISTLE CHALLENGE

How many players fancy the challenge of becoming a referee? Ask them and watch the look of alarm that comes over their faces. So step forward eight brave members of the senior team squad who, this week, volunteered for a three hour course on how to referee mini-rugby (Under 7 to Under 11). They will test their new found skills (or lack of) when the club hosts the East Kent Mini Festival on Sunday, March 17th ..The players who put their hands up are Kyan BraithwaIte, Dan Smart, Tyler Oliver, Louis Whetton, Sean Stapleton, Ben Neville,Tristan King and Matt Corker. At least the poachers turned mini-gamekeepers will not have to unravel the mysteries of the front row just yet, although hooker Tristan would be the best qualified. However, this first step may open up a whole new career when they discover that the man with the whistle has the best seat in the house. Is there another Glen Jackson among them, the former New Zealand Maoris and Saracens fly half who is now on the international referees panel?
ANDY’S VIEW
Clearly a welcome week off last week as other teams across the National Leagues caught up on weather affected games. There was a clear message from many of the lads and the leadership that, despite having no match, we wanted to have a full week’s training to ensure we didn’t lose any sharpness. It was a productive couple of sessions on the field whilst Charlie Bannigan also worked on hard in the treatment room. All clubs are beginning the run in that will define their season and Guernsey are no different. Their recent victory at Clifton was impressive and they know how to win away from home so we will have to bring our best today to have a chance. A big welcome to them and their support after their long trip from Guernsey.
Andy Pratt, Head of Rugby

SAM’S CENTURY TRY

Sam Sterling’s late try against Birmingham & Solihull marked a new high; it was the team’s 100th of the season. The back division have been in great form with Aiden Moss our leading try scorer on 13, followed by Ricky Mackintosh and Dan Smart 11, JJ Murray 10, Ollie Best 8 and Sam Sterling 7. All this, of course, is on the back of hard work by the pack and the front row have made their own statement. Sam Kenny and Tristan King, with five tries apiece, know their way to the line.
In other news, Kent Under 20 prop Tom Little has been loaned to Medway until the end of the season to help them with front row injury problems and this week there was the welcome sight of Number Eight George Micans back in light training. He has been out for the whole season following knee surgery last year.

LUNCH WITH ZINZAN

Former All Black legend Zinzan Brooke will bring a touch of rugby magic to the club’s City Lunch here at the Marine Travel Ground on March 29th. As a 22-year-old he was part of the New Zealand squad that won the first ever World Cup tournament in 1987 and he went on to play 100 games for his country. The back row specialist captained the All Blacks five times, scored 41 tries and by the time he played his last test match, against England at Twickenham in 1997 had accumulated an impressive 195 points. That included a famous 47 metre drop goal in the 1995 Word Cup semi-final. Zinzan ended his career with Harlequins, first as player then coach, and now runs a construction and recruitment business. He is recognised as one of the best speakers about the game so come and find out for yourself later this month. Book a table or an individual place with Giles Hilton at: commercial@cantrugby .co.uk

THANK YOU EVERYONE
The last home game became a very special day, not only because of the victory over Birmingham and Solihull but for once again underlining the generosity and community spirit of our supporters. Funds totalling £1500 were raised for a very special lady, Natalie Havill, who worked for our principal sponsor Marine Travel, and is suffering from a rare form of cancer. The cancer, which has recurred for a third time, is terminal and she has been given only months to live. However, there is a clinical trial taking place in Germany that may prolong her life so that Natalie can enjoy being with her young family for a little while longer. The money raised will help towards her travel costs. Tanya Wells, of Marine Travel, wrote to say: “I would like to pass on Marine Travel’s heartfelt thanks to your generous supporters at the Rugby Club lunch on Saturday. We raised £1500 for Natalie’s fund through the bucket collection and the various auction items, including the infamous veg box!! I spoke to Natalie on Saturday evening, she was completely overwhelmed and said that she wished she could thank each and every person herself. I know personally how supportive the club can be and Saturday just underlined why we are #oneclub “ If you would like to contribute go to the crowdfunding site:
www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/nataliehavill

MICK’S WHEELCHAIR WALK

Former club chairman Mick O’Reilly and his wife Montse are on a mission to raise funds for our Wheelchair Rugby section. Next month they are walking the 120 kilometre pilgrims route from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. They have started a GoFundMe campaign which they hope will buy a specialist chair for a 14-year-old player who currently has to use an adult chair. The equipment is expensive and Wheelchair chairman Brian Pitchford has suggested that £2,000 would be needed to acquire the chair.. All funds that Mr and Mrs O’Reilly raise will go to the Wheelchair section and not to fund the walk. To donate go to:
https://www.gofundme.com/walk-for-a-wheelchair