No panic for boss despite a tenth loss in 11 games
BROADSTREET boss Paul Hurst remains confident that his team have the ability to stay in National Two South despite suffering their tenth defeat in 11 outings at Worthing on Saturday.
Their 42-14 reverse leaves only winless Wimbledon and Old Redcliffians, both of whom face newlypromoted ‘Street during the next three weeks, below the Ivor Preece Field club.
Three sides will be relegated at the end of the season, and a 14-point gap currently separates Hurst’s team from safety, but with the season’s midpoint still a month away, the head coach insists there is no need for panic.
“I am still confident we can maintain our level four league status,” he says.
“It is really important internally that everyone at the club, including the players, believes this is where we should be playing our rugby.
“The step from National Three is huge, and we have a young squad, but we have to keep working hard and focus on the crucial games coming up.
“We were 100 per cent better at Worthing than the week before against Tonbridge. We started well and played in the right areas, but once again basic errors cost us.
“We didn’t make Worthing work hard enough for their scores, and that is a concern.
“We won’t use it as an excuse, but we missed Andy Murray and Jeff Gregson, and our Wasps academy contingent were involved with the Anglo-Welsh Cup.”
Second row Jack Lake’s try gave Worthing an early lead, and the hosts soon extended their advantage through right winger Sam Hampson.
And although flanker Chris Idehan got ‘Street on the board, Hampson’s second score gave the hosts a comfortable half-time advantage.
Nick Thatcher’s latest score of a prolific season only cancelled out Jack Maslen’s bonus point try, and time remained for the hosts to add further five-pointers through centre Jack Forrest and replacement Will Gearing,
Home fly half Matt Mclean added 12 points through three conversions and two penalties, while Cliffie Hodgson added two conversions for ‘Street.
Hurst has taken encouragement from the number of his younger players who have now gained experience in either the Premiership A League or Anglo-Welsh Cup action with Wasps.
Back Josh Grimes joined Josh Nott, James Adams and James Moreton plus experienced scrum half Nick Thatcher on this list when he appeared in black-and-gold from the bench against the Ospreys on Friday night.
“It’s good that our young lads are being noticed by Wasps,” he says, “and can only help our longer-term relationship.” UNBELIEVABLY, the third anniversary of Wasps’ move to Coventry is already almost upon us.
Fittingly, Coventry kid Andy Goode’s record-breaking 33 points sparked the black-and-golds to a 48-16 win over London Irish in front of 28,254 curious fans on that chilly December Ricoh Arena Sunday.
At that point, the King Henry VIII old boy and avid Sky Blues fan represented the club’s only local connection.
Since then, Premiership Rugby’s academy areas have been adjusted, and Wasps have added former Woodlands pupil TJ Harris and Kenilworth School product Jacob Umaga to their playing strength.
And doubtless in years to come, this pair of hopefuls will be seen as the first of many Coventry and Warwickshire products who make the transition from local junior clubs to the top flight.
Umaga is of course an instantly recognisable name in rugby circles, courtesy of Jacob’s uncle Tana, who is one of the All Blacks’ most respected captains.
The young Wasps centre also has strong Samoan connections, through father Mike, who won 13 caps for the country of his parents’ birth, and with Yorkshire through his rugby league coaching Mum, Michelle.
But despite this, most rugby followers would probably identify the Umaga family most readily with the Midlands.
Mike coached at Coventry, Nuneaton, Stourbridge, Coventry and Birmingham Universities, while Jacob has enjoyed loan spells at Hinckley and Broadstreet in the last two seasons after opting for Wasps’ senior academy following his time in Leicester’s junior set-up.
But it is Kenilworth RFC, where Mike played and coached, that is Umaga senior and junior’s only shared playing connection, as Jacob recounts.
“I started in under-sevens at Kenilworth and played right up to Under 16s, and also played in Kenilworth School’s team in the Daily Mail Cup,” he said.
“I wasn’t forced to play rugby, but growing up I spent a lot of time following my dad around when he was at local National League clubs.
“My mum coached rugby as well, so in the summer I played rugby league with her. I used to support Bradford but they went down-hill a couple of years ago and haven’t watched it since.”
A promising teenage centre living in Kenilworth would now soon be on Wasps’ radar, but prior to the recent reorganisation Umaga should have found his way to Worcester rather than Leicester. So what happened? “I had a trial for Worcester when I was 14, but afterwards their email got lost so I never heard anything,” Umaga explained. “My dad knew someone at Leicester who said ‘bring him down for a training session.’ I had three and kept going from there. “I enjoyed my time there, it was a good place to be but with Wasps being so close to home, it was a good opportunity and I thought I’d try something new. I trained with the first team for a week when they were a bit short on fly-halves and stood behind Freddie Burns for a couple of sessions but that was as close as I got. The academy had some traits of the senior squad and the intensity was definitely there.”
As the likes of Liam Botham, Josh Beaumont, Nigel Clough and Dan Skelton have found, following in the footsteps of a sporting legend can be far from easy. However, Umaga junior seems far from phased by his rugby heritage, and instead relishes the practical benefits brought by having two international centres in his family tree.
“When I was younger, I watched quite a lot of my uncle playing,” he said.
“But I never really got to see my dad play when he was in his prime. I heard he was a physical guy, but I never really got to see him play which is a shame because I’ve heard so many good things about him.
“I’m a different player to both of them. They were quick, physical players whereas I class myself as more of a ball-player – I am just Jacob at the end of the day, and I can only do what I can do.
“My dad’s always there; he’s the first to speak up if something goes wrong and keeps a watchful eye to make sure I’m doing stuff we’ve talked about.”
Dai Young has at times confessed to not being 100 per cent sure in which position Jacob will eventually make his name. This season’s A League and Anglo-Welsh Cup selections suggest that inside centre rather than fly half or full back are his most likely destination, but Umaga is happy to take whatever chances arise.
“I enjoy playing anywhere, and think of myself as a utility back,” he said.
“I played full back last year in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, for Hinckley I played at No.13 and I’ve played fly half in the A League.
“In training I try and mix it up so I get a bit of knowledge from every
I’m a different player to both of them. They were quick, physical players whereas I class myself as more of a ball-player.