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LATEST MATCH REPORTS...


Kent C 25 London C 19

Inter CountyWell, by now everyone will know that while the As and B's did what was needed on the last day to secure the region, the Cs fell short. We lost 25-19 to Kent, a result that not only allowed Kent to overtake us but which gifted the title to Surrey.

To say that we are disappointed would be an understatement of mammoth proportions. For the first half of this season, we were dominant in the region and had every reason to see ourselves as the pride of London. The wheels began to come off the wagon at the Berkshire game, where we fielded a makeshift side containing only 3 regular starting Cs, plus various substitutes, seniors and ladies. But it was probably the Hampshire game that is most painful: we led 22-16 and with hindsight needed only one frame to win the region with two matches to spare, only to be pegged back to a draw. The home defeat to Surrey could be put down to a bad day at the office and perhaps having too much of a comfort zone; at Kent it was all or nothing, and we came up short.

Aside from one point when we led 2-1, Kent were always in front. They took the first set 7-4. We clawed some of that back in the second set and at one point pulled level at 10-10, but we only won the second set 6-5 so they still had the advantage. We had a nice little run of five wins in that set, though, including a rewarding Lazarus-from-the-dead win from myself in the captains' match with Kev Rackham, one of those games it feels so good to win because he's covered the bags and your balls aren't going anywhere to start with. But the Kent lads refused to let us get a foothold into the match. They squeezed the third set 6-5 and as they saw the finishing line began to canter towards it, sealing the final set 7-4.

On the performance front, two guys got terrific 3/4s: veterans Tony Bailey and Graham Thompson. There were respectable 2/4s from Darren O'Byrne, Alex Stones, Lee Bushell, Baz Folkard, and Paul Dawson. On 1/4 were a disappointed Andre Cox, the regional stats winner, Michael Bonney and Paul Williams, while Mark Christensen had a bad day at 0/4.

The season has thus ended and I will be making the required recommendations for promotion, retention and retrial. There were quite a few players who failed to attend 50% of the fixtures and these will all be asked to retrial, as is the rule. Anyone who failed to achieve 50% wins from frames played will also be asked to go back into the pool in January. A handful of players have guaranteed retention - they'll all be notified shortly, and there will of course be somewhat predictable recommendations for promotion to the Bs. The squad is losing a few players next season so it will have a new look to it, no doubt.

Before the match I informed my players that, win or lose, I would be stepping down as captain afterwards. I won't lie - it would have been wonderful to have retired on a win, with a deserved trophy, but the decision to step down has been a surprisingly easy one. I've done the best I can with the team for a few seasons now. When I stepped in, just over mid-season, I inherited a great team most of whom are now playing for the Bs. Since then, I have tried to shape some C team identity and brought some pride into what used to be considered a laughing stock (and is still sometimes dismissed as such by 'better' players in throwaway comments). I have enjoyed the cameraderie, particularly with this team I have captained this year. But I have not enjoyed the politics of it all. In trying to promote the interests of the C team I have found myself in disagreement with decisions made at squad level. My mistake, I think, is that I still think things should be governed by the ethical question of right and wrong, but captaincy requires adherence to the political question of success and failure. In any case, while I will miss the honour that comes from playing for and captaining your county, and the friendships I have made, in addition to the politics and the paperwork I won't miss all those damned rail replacement bus services that seem to plague me every match Sunday.

There's already been interest from a few candidates in taking over the job. The committee will invite candidates to throw their names into the ring once I formally notify them of my resignation (I haven't officially done this yet!), and then make its decision. Being appointed county captain is, of course, a decision made by the committee and not the outgoing captain or the players so in the end my voice will be only one of many in the selection process. Whoever gets the nod, I wish him the best of luck, he'll inherit the bulk of a great side plus some new players, and I hope he takes the time to write long tedious reports like this one as that is part of the job description!

I'm not the only one stepping down at the end of this season. Tony Bailey also told us he was retiring from the scene, so it seems fitting that he receives the man of the match nod for his steady 3/4 on Sunday.

So, to wrap up, I'd like to thank everyone for all the work they have put in to this season. We came up short in the end but everyone on this team is a champion in my book. I'm sorry I couldn't have skippered you to the trophy you all so well-deserved, but I am quite sure, those of you who stay with the Cs, whoever takes over the captain's arm band will help take you there sooner rather than later. I wish you all the best.

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