Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Sunday's Coming: All Golds

Good things come to those who wait - and last weekend was the end of a very long wait for the University of Gloucestershire All Golds (or UGAG, to save my typing finger). After 14 months it was 13th time lucky as the All Golds finally bagged their first ever home win - coming back from behind to beat the South Wales Scorpions by 29 to 17.

The much awaited win came after after ten home defeats games at the Prince of Wales Stadium and and two at Lydney RFC’s Regentsholme Park, putting UGAG 4th in Ch.1, tucked in behind the leading pack of York, Oldham and Hunslet.

Interestingly, UGAG took a 77th minute drop goal leading 28-16 to try and deny the Scorpions a bonus point, only for South Wales to snatch it back with a 79th minute drop goal. Such is the importance of the bonus point in building a critical mass of points to hoist you up the table.

All Golds coach Brad Hepi was pragmatic in his assessment of his team's achievement: “It’s the first home win of the season and the first home win of our brief history so far. We won three games last year but never won at home and we’ve got to turn this place into a fortress, that’s the first step towards doing that.”
Brad Hepi: astonished to find that
he's six inches shorter than the
Challenge Cup

Here's hoping Fortress Cheltenham is doing its thing by the time Oldham rock up there later in the season.

The draw that gave us this Challenge Cup tie was made in Cheltenham, after whicfh Rob Webber, UGAG CEO, said: “We were delighted and proud to host the Challenge Cup draw at the University and we are now looking forward to playing Rochdale Hornets in the Cup…"

Whilst equally delighted, UGAG Captain, Mike Stewart may have to check his fixture list for 2014. He said: “Rochdale are a massive traditional name in rugby league, ever since the 1895 split. They are in our league (sic), so there is a possibility of progressing to the next round where hopefully we may draw a Super League club.”

As we know, contrary to their location, Cheltenham and the All Golds have a rich seam of Rugby League history running through them.

The first ever Rugby League international series was decided in Cheltenham on February 15th 1908 between England and the New Zealand's newly professionalised All Blacks - vilified as the 'All Golds' by Rugby *nion for daring to be paid to play. That UGAG have reclaimed the name as a badge of honour and fly the RL flag in the *nion heartland is admirable stuff - though not surprising, given that their president Lionel Hurst is one of our game's most evangelistic expansionists.

For an insight into the one of Rugby League's deepest and most passionate thinkers, you can read a recent Rugby League World interview with Lionel Hurst by clicking here

Indeed, Lionel is one of Rugby League's good-guys - so if you spot him on Sunday, buy him a pint. Or a pie. Or just say hello.

Continuing the theme of breaking new ground, The Challenge Cup provides a little respite for Ian Talbot as Hornets look to apply some of the lessons learned in our first month as a Championship club. For sure, last weekend's game was a tough lesson in the standards you need to attain to challenge at the top of the Championship.

Speaking in the 'League, Weakly' Talbot said: "We started slowly and never really got going. We need to start playing more as a team rather than a group of individuals. We are finding the step-up in physicality tough. In the last  20 minutes we had no substitutes left to go on after losing three players injured. We lost Gaz Langley early on with a dead-leg and had to play 65 minutes with a second-rower on the wing. At half time I feared the worst, but credit to our lads they dug in and stuck at it in the second and had a go…"

So with a month's learnings in the bank, Hornets should be in a good position to grab a confidence boosting win and, hopefully, secure a big fat tie against a Super League club that will stick a few quid in the coffers.