Grudge Match Goes Ahead Amid War Of Words

The John’s-Jesus game will take place today under a cloud of ill feeling.

college rugby ian minto jamie miller jesus rugby john's rugby mathonwy thomas red boys Rugby scrumgate scrums uncontested scrums

Today’s showdown encounter between John’s and Jesus will go ahead under a cloud of ill feeling, with both captains claiming that the ‘Scrumgate’ affair over the weekend will act as an inspiration for their teams.

An emergency captains’ meeting, called by league organiser Ian Minto to discuss the complaint and the issue of uncontested scrums more generally, decided that the match should go ahead.

It also resolved to extend to 48 hours the minimum warning a captain had to give to ask for uncontested scrums, as well as offering a new round of scrummaging clinics and implementing U19 rules for the scrum after the second of November.

The war of words between the teams has not abaited however, with Jesus reacting angrily to speculation about their motives.

Jesus skipper Jamie Miller told The Tab that he resented the suggestion, expressed by his opposite number Mathonwy Thomas and in a Tab article by Downing Vice Captain Ali Mcwhirter, that Jesus were requesting uncontested scrums for strategic gain.

He said: “It’s appalling that the John’s captain can impugn the integrity of our team by suggesting that we – both now and in the past – have gone uncontested for tactical reasons, and are therefore cheating.

“The fact of the matter – as Mat well knows – is that we cannot field trained props. We’ve scoured the grad colleges for three months. We’ve asked CURUFC to convene a prop school to train up props. We’ve done everything within our capacity to avoid this situation.

“For him to suggest otherwise is insulting to me, the team, and the college we represent.”

Thomas, whose email to Minto last week precipitated the affair, didn’t repeat the suggestion he made on Saturday that Jesus were playing the rules to their advantage, and explained why the game was going ahead: “The reason for not postponing the game was due to the season being too short to allow for a break in which Jesus and Trinity (everyone else can scrummage) could train up some new props.

Jesus hooker Ben King is sin binned in last year’s John’s-Jesus fixture.

“Further, 4 out of 6 colleges were in favour of introducing the rule that any team who forces the scrum to go uncontested must play with just 14 players. This rule is endorsed by the IRB, and is in force in many similar leagues, according to [Ian] Minto’s research. The reason this idea was scrapped was because matches have already been played with the ‘old rules’.”

And he said he was disappointed with the outcome of the meeting: “we identified a problem, and have taken absolutely no action to fix it, despite 4 of 6 teams being in favour of some of the suggested compromises.

“The decision to ignore the IRB’s suggested rules (ie. internationally recognised rules) is baffling, but that’s the decision so we will take it and use all of this as inspiration to play harder than ever for the remainder of the season.”

Thomas, whose place in the Blues squad means that he is ineligible to play tomorrow, added: “I’m looking forward to the contest possibly more than I have done for any other Jesus game, and the fact that I’m ineligible to play is absolutely gutting. I would give anything to be leading the Redboys out onto the pitch on Tuesday.”

‘They have it all to lose’

Sources in the Jesus camp suggest have suggested from the start that Thomas’ attempt to postpone the game  sprung from Johns’ concerns about losing their unbeaten record.

Miller, though, is more circumspect: “John’s aren’t unbeaten for five years for nothing. They revel in forward power, they’re physical, and they tend to have a lot of experienced players who’ve played high-level rugby before coming to Cambridge. They are the undisputed benchmark.

“On the other hand, we – along with the rest of the Cambridge rugby community – will be hoping we can bring our best game on the day and topple them. Johns will be very nervous about relinquishing their winning run. All the pressure is on them; they have it all to lose.

“We’ve got a great mix of experience and youth. Guys like Tim Greenfield and Kouj Tambara have played Johns four or five seasons straight. They’ve been there, done that, and seen it all.”

Asked how he planned to beat John’s on the park, Miller emphasised teamwork: “There’s a fantastic team spirit in our team, built up over countless training sessions during the last month. We have good combinations off the park, and we get on really well off the field too. We all want to achieve something this year. We’re hungry for it.

He continued: “Tactically, John’s tend to play a predictably English style of rugby, so if you contain that, they don’t really have a Plan B. It would be a massive surprise to see either of their wingers touch the ball more than two or three times during the match.”

In a message to members of the John’s v Jesus Facebook event, Miller said his opponents were “shitting themselves like a gap year student who ordered the extry spicy vindaloo from a dodgy back alley restaurant in Mumbai.”

Asked whether that was true, one Red Boy told The Tab “the only shit involved in this is that coming out of Mr Miller’s mouth. We’ll let our rugby do the talking. Like we always do.”

The match kicks off at 2.15pm on John’s pitches. If you can’t make it to the game, you can follow updates on all the big moments on The Tab’s Twitter feed which appears on the right hand side of the front page.