HALF TERM REPORT
If the final game of 2018 at Tonbridge Juddians was a disappointment it should not cloud the judgment of this season’s half term report. The statistics tell the story of a successful four months. We have won twelve of our sixteen matches, averaging 26 points and four tries per game. Bonus points have been an important part of the progress with the team earning ten for their try scoring exploits and picking up three more in narrow defeats. Third place in the league at Christmas is our highest at this stage for many seasons. Two key aspects of the squad’s performances have underpinned that success; the ability to win away from the comfort of the Marine Travel Ground and to close out tight contests. Victories at Old Redcliffians, Birmingham & Solihulll, Guernsey, Henley and Bury St Edmunds were testimony to a growing confidence and commitment. One of the best examples was the success at Guernsey where we were far from our best but came from behind in the closing stages to take the points. You felt that the team proved a point to itself that day and it was reflected in an eight match winning run. It has not been a smooth passage, with injuries again affecting selection. The loss of captain Max Cantwell in only the second game, who is likely to miss the rest of the season, left a leadership gap. We are lucky to have two highly experienced players in Matt Corker and Sean Stapleton who stepped into the breach and continued to demand high standards. What we must avoid is a repeat last season’s pattern where we did well between September and December only to slip badly in the second half of the campaign. With National 2 looking the most open contest for years there is a feeling that the team are ready for the challenge.
Happy New Year to all. We return to face a confident Old Redcliffians team who have won their last three games and will be keen on picking up where they left off. As for us we will to put the disappointments of the TJs game behind us and look to push on in what has been a positive season so far. The trip to TJs was always going to be hard but, apart from our first try, we never allowed ourselves to show what we’re capable of. Individual errors and poor decisions meant we could not build any pressure against a very good defence. Many thanks to the large travelling support who came down to cheer the lads on. I am looking forward to this second half of the season. We have more home games than pre-Christmas and we must make this count. As the season draws to a close and the various prizes come into sharper focus, form and league position become less reliable predictors. Focus and fitness will be vital.
Andy Pratt, Head of Rugby
HATS OFF TO SUPPORTERS
Head of Rugby Andy Pratt is always quick to appreciate and praise the level of support we get from the touchline. Nowhere was that better demonstrated than in the final game of 1918 at Tonbridge Juddians. Our supporters came by coach, by train and a few by posh taxi. When they arrived at the ground there were festive beanies waiting for them, courtesy of chairman Giles Hilton, and it all contributed to great atmosphere. So it was hats on and hats off to all our supporters. Those who took the rail route will claim they got the best deal of the day. A short walk from Tonbridge station they nipped into the first available pub and it turned out to be a gem. The bitter was under two quid a pint and just over for Guinness drinkers. How many made it to the ground in time for kick-off is the subject of an inquiry.
BACK IN TOWN
For those who treasure the talented players of past Canterbury sides , there is likely to be a familiar face in the crowd. Tim Aistrope, an outstanding open side flanker of recent memory who played for us in 2006, the year we were promoted to National level, is back in town. The Australian has taken up an appointment at UKC in the Department of Politics and International Relations. Tim came to us with an impressive cv of being a Brumbies squad member, understudying George Smith .He played Sevens for Australia and captained the national University team. His gifts were not limited to rugby; Tim’s academic record is even more impressive. He specialises in cyber security and is the author of ‘Conspiracy Theory and American Foreign Policy’ and if Donald Trump ever gets around to reading it (unlikely as it contains more than 140 characters) his reaction might almost be worth joining Twitter. Would Tim be classed as ‘a bad person’? Not round here he wont and it will be good to catch up with him, his wife Millie and their son Eti.
THE TACKLE DEBATE
Lower and lower. That’s where the tackle is going if current thinking is written into rugby law. Player welfare is paramount, and rightly so, in a contact sport like ours. Any move to minimise head injuries and concussion must be welcomed. However, like all fundamental changes other valid opinions have come into play and must be considered. This season we have seen tackles made above shoulder level penalsed by referees and any contact with the head carries with it the risk of dismissal or a citing. Now a further change, which would see the legitimate tackle area limited to below the armpits, has been trialled in Championship Cup games. But is it better and who benefits? Certainly the tackled player may be better protected, but for the tackler the changes may be less effective. Players will tell you that by going low the risk of contact between the tacklers head and the tackled players knee is high if you get it wrong. Many head injuries can occur in this way. Other variables such as the height of the playe