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Andy Deacon column: Cinderford Stags put on a show for the biggest crowd in the county

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 21, 2014

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IT was really disappointing to have our game against Richmond Rugby called off. The pitch looked okay one minute but it’s just so saturated that as soon as it rains again it fills up which is quite annoying.

We’ve had about a month away from home which is hugely frustrating for all those concerned.

There are obviously financial implications – food has been bought and staff have been hired but bar takings and such obviously take a huge hit. But it’s one of those things that can’t be helped, and the games are being re-arranged.

The protocol is the referee has to be there in advance of the teams and will usually perform a pitch inspection on the Friday afternoon or evening. I did read that Coventry were accused of massaging some of the facts to have their game called off which they refute, which is interesting.

There was only one fixture for Cinderford this weekend, and that was the Stags. They’re a very successful team and have only lost one game this season but sadly came unstuck 29-10 in a friendly at Old Cryptians.

It was probably the most watched game in Gloucestershire with a really healthy crowd of 100-plus including our coaching team. We just went to have a look and to show our support but had a really good afternoon.

The hospitality from the Old Cryptians committee was excellent. Chairman Alan Roberts and his team comprising Dave Reeves, Doug Perks and Nigel Holford really looked after me and my son Oliver, providing coffee at half time. A real credit to them for all their hard work. It was also good to catch up with ex-Gloucester and Old Cryptians winger Nick Price. He lives in America now and works out of Atlanta so it was good to see him back in the UK.

It was a great day and demonstrated everything that is good about local rugby. The pitch was in good nick, there was some great rugby and a lot of camaraderie and banter flying around. They played with real endeavour and skill, and shows the quality of local club rugby. They were mainly young lads but it was played with good structure and pace.

James King is the Old Cryptians coach after playing there for years as a prop. Being a fellow prop I remember playing against him when he was the cornerstone of the Old Pats scrum, and he did a job on me. In fact he really stuffed me. I still haven’t forgotten about it and he was quick to remind me, jokingly, that he has been dining out on it since.

We have Henley Hawks away this week which will be a big challenge. They have had a run of losses which they broke last week away at Hull. It’s a little bit difficult for us having not had a game at the weekend but we have picked up the intensity in training.

On the plus side, the boys are fresh, eager and we’ll bring in some extra contact work to

get them battle hardened again.

Any win in Perpignan is impressive

EVERYONE has been talking about Gloucester’s win in Perpignan and what a fantastic result it was. It will be a massive morale-booster and reaching the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup is a great achievement.

Perpignan made a lot of changes but you can only play what is put in front of you. Regardless of who was or wasn’t playing, these French clubs have massive budgets and strength in depth, and to go there and get a bonus-point win is no mean feat – it was an amazing achievement.

They finally showed what they can do and it will do their confidence no end of good. There was a suggestion that it was a dead rubber match but Gloucester salvaged something from it and can now look forward to a quarter-final. We have good history in the competition the boys have to go to Wasps, play rugby and really have a go at them.

I was particularly impressed with two of the young guys – Elliott Stooke and Gareth Evans – who once again had great games. Elliott has since been called up by the Saxons and it’s just reward for his fantastic form.

They have really put their stamp on games and will only get better. They are showing some of the more experienced players the way but that’s often the way.

These young guys have no baggage or worries and play with no fear. Ben Morgan, the England number eight, has to reach a new level to get back in the ream and that’s a great place for the team to be in.

The pack was also phenomenal. Whatever side they pick, the likes of Perpignan will always have good props and for Gloucester to control the scrum was massive achievement. They can take so much from the result.

Nothing we can do stop players from going to Lydney

MATSON had yet another win to stay top of the table which is great given the problems they’ve had off the pitch. Coney Hill are still struggling which is disappointing for them.

They’re short of players as are the Old Pats, who have also been on to me for players. Also interesting to see a high scoring draw between Lydney and Redingensians 32-32 last weekend, both teams sit side by side in the table but Lydney are leading by a strong margin.

It was also interesting to read Duncan Bell’s comments in the Citizen last week about players moving from us to Lydney, and how he thinks this is beneficial. The truth is that we have a very strong squad, the envy of many a rugby club, and we field three very competitive teams, First, United and Stags. It's also true that we have had a few individuals who were not getting game time and made a choice to drop two levels and play in National Three.

That’s the dynamics of the league structure and local rugby, with players having a choice based on their performance, ability, game time and loyalties/desires to play for a certain club.

The nature of the ever changing face of rugby!

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