Bath & Wiltshire Romans Rugby League Club travelled two hours north on Sunday 3rd April for the New Ravens Challenge Mug invitation competition. The competition was a round robin format of 13-a-side 20 minute fixtures involving the following clubs Bath & Wiltshire Romans (the only West of England representatives), Telford/New Ravens (Midlands Representatives – combining teams for the competition), Derby City another Midlands representative and Leicester Storm who will return to the Midlands league in 2016 after a spell in Conference League South.
It was expected that Leicester Storm would be the stronger side with their background in Conference League South and they ended up winning the prestigious Mug.
One of the competition organisers, Jason Spafford said “We are keen to maintain the competition as a friendly experience for invited clubs in pre-season who might be fielding players who are new to the sport and has subsequently become an annual event. This year competition was certainly an interesting spectacle as many fixtures were close encounters”
The Romans results were as follows:
Bath & Wiltshire Romans 4-4 New Ravens/Telford
Bath & Wiltshire Romans 0-12 Leicester Storm
Bath & Wiltshire Romans 8-10 Derby
The Romans had a tight encounter for their first fixture against a combined New Ravens/Telford team with the Romans scoring first with an impressive line break from full back Jimmy Godfrey. Godfrey had just returned from travelling diving over in the corner, before New Ravens combined team scored just before half time, which seemed a very long 10 minute half. The score stayed at a try a piece after New Ravens combined team missed a drop goal attempt late in the second period.
The experimental Romans squad put up a good fight against a strong Leicester Storm side but they had a couple of strong runners which broke through on a couple of occasions. One such break was cleared up by full back Godfrey who tackled the Storm second row into touch. Romans props Liam Cashman and Olly Spence were doing the hard yards throughout the competition.
The third and final encounter was arguably the most exciting fixture from a spectator point of view against Derby. Josh Frost (Frome RU 1st team fly half) on debut for the Romans at stand-off created a gap and dummied his way over out wide. He then took over the kicking duties from scrum-half and Coach/Captain for the day Leigh Wheatley but missed a tricky conversion attempt. Derby managed to convert one try from two, before second-row Tom Culshaw who seems to have improved his attacking game in the off season ‘jinked’ and showed a bit of a ‘side step’ to go over for a try which was again out wide. However the Romans missed the final conversion attempt which could have drawn the game at the death.
Chris Chatten, Bath & Wiltshire Romans Chairman, commented “all the lads who played enjoyed their day out at New Ravens and we hope to be invited back in 2017. This was the first hit out of 2016 for us so we are looking for continuous improvement as we built towards the start of the West of England campaign where we kick off with a fixture away at Gloucester Warriors on Saturday 14th May”
The Romans are next in action at the South West 9’s at Exeter University on Sunday 1st May and again in the West of England 9’s at Swindon St. George.
Chatten also commented that “the club are keen to improve again in 2016 after winning the West of England Grand Final in 2015 and are keen to recruit players to improve on last season. We are also planning to set up a second team to improve the pathway into the first team and allow opportunities for social rugby league players too.”
The Romans are now based at Corsham Rugby Union Club, Lacock Road, Corsham and are keen to welcome new players 16+ of all abilities to training currently on Wednesday evenings from 7pm. The club will be training twice per week from the beginning of May as the West of England League kicks offs.