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Cup Rugby on Sunday and The Good Old Days revisited!

4 years ago By victor alway

Nick Alway previews and reminisces.

On Sunday the Stags play Hammersmith & Fulham away at Hurlingham Park in the Final of the Middlesex Cup - held over from last season. Kick-off is 1500 and after a couple of defeats in their first two friendlies Gareth Jordan's side - showing a number of changes from last year - will be hoping for a change of fortune.

Last Friday evening's defeat at Cobham came in a close game and lessons will hopefully have been learned from what was a good run-out featuring some impressive back play.

The address of the Hammers' ground is :

Hurlingham Park
Hurlingham Road
London SW6

Do remember that Putney Bridge is currently closed to all road traffic.

Below is the text of a now slightly revised article about the club's history in this tournament that originally appeared on the website last year :

CS : " Service" and the Middlesex Cup
Although it may have lost something of its shine, the Middlesex Cup remains the main County competition and the " Service" has a rich tradition of participating in it.

Until 1987 - so a year therefore before the introduction of any leagues at all - the Middlesex Cup was a trophy contested by all clubs affiliated to the county from the lowest to the highest including all the county's senior clubs and the winners between 1971 (Before 1971 even cup competitions were frowned upon!) and 1987 reflect this. The only names on the trophy were Saracencs, Met Police, Wasps, Harlequins and Rosslyn Park. Only two junior sides had the effrontery to reach the final : Old Gaytonians ( now merged into West London who did it twice ) and West London Institute of Higher Education ( formerly Borough Road College and more recently part at least of Brunel University).

Times have certainly changed. Old Gaytonians were in the 70s and 80s the leading junior side in the county. Now West London languish in Herts/ Middx 2 ( Level 10 )!

Between 1980 and 1982 the Service in what is sometimes referred to as " the Gosling era" ( Welshman, Mike Gosling was stand-off, captain and coach) reached the 4th round, semi-final and quarter final in successive years , not losing to a junior club and twice losing only to Wasps away ( and not by all that much ) whose line-up featured the likes of international, Richard Cardus and future international Rob Lozowski ( an ex-Gaytonian) . In the semi-final against them we were twice in the lead and Wasps were never able to draw right away. Old Gates - the more or less undisputed top " junior " side at the time - had been beaten at their ground in the previous round in a game in which club stalwart and second row, the late “Beastie” Hasler, had been stitched up by the home team’s doctor to enable him to return to the fray : this was something of a novelty for a side at our level!

That semi-final earned us a preliminary round John Player ( the then National Cup competition ) tie against Richmond - another Middlesex affiliated side at that time that never won the Middlesex Cup! - at the start of the following season.

Since 1987 only “ junior “ sides have been eligible to play in the Middlesex Cup competition which was for many years dominated by Staines, Ruislip and Ealing.

“Service” itself was in the doldrums for a good few seasons but by 2006 in our next very successful " era ", "the Tony Chapman era", we were on the up and that year we reached our first ever final played against Ealing at home. We lost but were in contention until the final ten minutes and had given them an almighty scare.

We finally got our hands on the trophy in 2008 and very nearly lost it the same evening but that is another story – when we beat Enfield Ignatians away in a game played on a surface that only hours earlier had been covered in snow.

The demands of playing in National 3 ( Level 5) have not always been seen as compatible with Cup participation - which is a pity as it offers an opportunity to draw on a rather wider pool of players.

But this year we are again involved : it is a much changed competition , the imbalance between the top and bottom of the league structure being such that only the top eight county “junior “ sides ( ie ourselves and below ) are invited to play in this top tier County Cup competition with a Bowl and a Vase for those many clubs who play at lower levels.


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