Welcome back folks to yet another load of drivel from me as we get ourselves ready for the challenges at Pottington Road and boy what a challenge awaits Barnstaple Chiefs as they face 3rd place Dings Crusaders. Athletic are also at home to take on visitors Brixham 2nd XV and will be looking to continue their fine form they have shown in 2023. The Bucc’s have a massive game at Bideford today whilst the Colts visit Exeter Athletic Colts for the rearranged match following a frustrating few weeks of gaames being postponed. However this is all dependant on the weather as there are predictions of –9c in Southern England during the weekend, so how this affects us or not is totally in the lap of the gods so to speak although the forecast for here looks better with predictions of 4c-5c during the night so keep your fingers crossed.

Next weekend will see the Hornets visit for the rearranged match against the Chiefs and a really big game for Barnstaple this one as the Hornets are currently 3 points ahead of the Chiefs curtesy of a home win against Stourbridge last weekend. It is also the start of the Six Nations with England v Scotland after the game and we will have Tribute and Carlsberg special offers whilst the game is showing. To celebrate all this there is a pre-match lunch on offer prior to the Chiefs v Hornets game detailed below.

Finally, and I know I keep harping on about this, but it really is for a very important and worthwhile cause and that’s the North Devon Hospice Rugby Ramble on March 23rd which will feature several of our Tuesday Club of Volunteers. If you would like to get involved there’s a delicious hot pasty to set you on your way, a pint at the midway point to keep you going plus a final pint at the finish line. Then settle in to watch the crunch England vs Ireland game, potentially THE deciding game of the Six Nations, in the best atmosphere anywhere in North Devon. For more details visit the North Devon Hospice website here  https://www.northdevonhospice.org.uk/support-us/events/rugby-ramble/

So a weekend the Chiefs didn’t expect to take off as the game at Luctonians was postponed and a chance for those wounds to further heal for some of our players, it’s now back to the grind once again with one of the high flyers of the league, namely Dings Crusaders and what a tough match this will prove to be as Ding’s are currently sitting pretty in the league in 3rd place with 11 wins to their name this season already. Last weekend was their 4th loss and their third at home funnily enough as following a 24-7 lead at half time their visitors and league leaders Leicester Lions fought back to level the game before winning it with a penalty 5 minutes from the end 24-27. So we can expect Ding’s to come rushing out of the blocks in this game I expect as they will want to push that memory far from existence with a win today.

Last season they did the double over us winning here at Pottington Road with a first half performance that led to Ding’s grabbing 19 unanswered points to lead the half 0-19. However, a fantastic fightback by the Chiefs to give the home side a chance as they closed the gap to just 5 points trailing 14-19 with still 25 minutes left. Unfortunately, that 1st half lead left the Chiefs too much to do as pushing hard for the win left openings for Dings as they applied a lot of pressure on the Chiefs to finally win 19-31.

Now if we get a game like that one, especially the second half, then I really can’t see the Chiefs not getting something from this game. Granted it is going to be tough and their defence must be right up there with the best it has been all season, but lets not forget that the Chiefs do have three wins from four games either side of the New Year, so, if the Chiefs make Dings work for every inch of turf in this game they might get something from it and with Hornets and Bournville to visit in February every point matters now. Frustrate the visitors and who knows what may come, at the very least a good performance by the Chiefs will provide the much-needed momentum they need to face their fellow bottom of the table competitors and come away with vital wins against them. Let’s just hope the weather plays ball.

Starting in his first league game for the Chiefs is Louis Beer whilst the bench witnesses the return of Scott Incledon, Gav Mitchell and Connor Swan with Arthur Marks and Alex O’Donoghue returning to the starting line up in a reshuffled squad. Here then is the team to face Ding’s Crusaders.

ATHLETIC BUCCANEERS AND COLTS

Last weekend it was just Athletic to fly the flag for Barnstaple Rugby and boy did they fly it high as they pretty much demolished a South Molton side who put up a great fight but just couldn’t get past an impressive Athletic defensive line and the Tic’s left the field with a winning 48-0 score line. There was a lot of good rugby out there and some good handling given the freezing conditions and a hat-trick of tries from match sponsors The Sheep Show’s man of the match Oliver James set the pace for the game.

That result has propelled Athletic up to 4th now just a mere 5 points behind third placed Withycombe who they face in their last home game on March 11th before the cup competitions begin. Today Athletic welcome Brixham Crusaders to Pottington Road to help further their charge towards the top and while catching Tavistock is a stretch too far, that third place is within reach as will be the Second place spot if a couple of results go Barnstaple’s way elsewhere and so five points from today’s game is a must for the Tics and the team to do that also sees a couple of changes to a fairly well established squad. Here then is Athletic to face Brixham Crusaders.

Disappointment for both these two last Saturday as both matches were called off due to the pitch conditions. The Bucc’s have a very crucial game today though as somehow Bideford Athletic are suddenly leading the Merit table 1NE following what looks like a spate of five point awarded wins for games defaulted by their opponents or that’s how it looks as I must admit to being totally bemused by how this Merit table is worked out. Anyway, it does mean that Barnstaple’s Buccaneers visit to Bideford This Saturday takes on a much more significant aspect, as a top of the table clash which the Bucc’s will be eager to win just to restore the balance.

Earlier when these two met at Pottington Road it was the Bucc’s who were victorious in a close game winning 19-10, so nothing can be taken for granted as the Bucc’s meet and equally motivated opponent who might just upset the applecart, making this match a great spectacle for anyone who will be watching. The Bucc’s do have the knowledge that despite Bideford’s one point over them at the top they do have a game in hand so to win this duel would be a double bonus to Barnstaple.

For the Colts it is he rearranged fixture that gets them on the road to Exeter Athletic Colts and some much needed rugby to be played. Let’s hope they can get the result they need and produce some good rugby we all know they are more than capable of and hopefully a good result. Here is the team to try and achieve just that.

Now then as you are aware last weekend I described the law changes that the RFU were going to implement next season and stated that if you wanted “ the RFU to have a rethink then please sign this petition and let grass roots and community rugby be heard”. to sign a petition. Well it looks like we were heard and with a number of former rugby players turned commentators as well commenting the RFU have released a statement apologising for getting the engagement with grass roots rugby wrong and are going to involve the rugby community going forward on this matter. You can read the full statement here, RFU STATEMENT: TACKLE HEIGHT

So well done everyone at least we can have an informed tackle law change, hopefully anyway. That’s all from me for another weekend, hope you all enjoy the game and good luck to all Barnstaple’s teams playing today and enjoy your rugby. Don’t froget next weekend is a massive weekend, Chiefs v Hornets in a crunch game and cheap beer whilst watching England v Scotland what more could you want.

Take care everyone and I will see you all at the bar.

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