The Big Match: Bishops Stortford v Blackheath

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Bank Holiday Friday Afternoon Match

Right then.  Blackheath hit the road for the second weekend in a row, this time for a slightly shorter journey than last time out – just the 40-odd miles round the M25 to Bishop’s Stortford (8th).

Stortford’s Head Coach is former Bath, Munster, Newcastle and – in an acquaintance he will renew when they visit next season – Rotherham hooker, Andy Long.  Long’s side won promotion last season as National Two South Champions.  In common with the other two promoted sides, Stortford have had a great first season at Level Three and deservedly grace National One with their presence.

Friday’s match will be our hosts’ first home game since 10 February so, no doubt, they will be aiming for a crowd-wowing performance against the men from Southeast London.  Blackheath, on the other hand, will be looking to avenge the defeat they suffered at Stortford’s hands back in November.  Club ran up a 19 – 0 half time lead, only to have it torn away from them in the second half, eventually losing out 19 – 21 following the Hertfordshire side’s conversion of a late try.

 

The League

National One as at Thursday 29 March 2018

Psn Club Pld W D L F A PD TBP LBP Ded Pts
1 Coventry 26 25 0 1 1097 379 718 23 0 0 123
2 Darlington Mowden Park 25 18 1 6 693 546 147 17 2 0 93
3 Ampthill and District 25 15 4 6 664 486 178 15 4 0 87
4 Plymouth Albion 24 15 2 7 663 433 230 14 6 0 84
5 Blackheath 25 15 2 8 685 515 170 12 3 0 79
6 Old Elthamians 25 14 1 10 624 571 53 11 3 0 72
7 Birmingham Moseley 26 13 2 11 589 655 -66 10 4 0 70
8 Bishop’s Stortford 25 12 1 12 595 601 -6 7 7 0 64
9 Caldy 26 11 0 15 613 612 1 10 8 0 62
10 Cambridge 25 11 0 14 488 492 -4 5 8 0 57
11 Rosslyn Park 25 9 2 14 615 693 -78 12 5 0 57
12 Esher 25 8 2 15 631 734 -103 15 6 0 57
13 Hull Ionians 25 8 1 16 559 782 -223 13 3 0 50
14 Loughborough Students 25 7 3 15 582 767 -185 8 5 0 47
15 Old Albanian 26 7 1 18 508 808 -300 9 4 0 43
16 Fylde 26 3 0 23 334 866 -532 2 4 0 18

 

Past Meetings and Recent Results

Stortford have a 100% winning record in league matches against Blackheath….although as there has only been the one, we need to keep it in some sort of perspective.  A Saturday afternoon at Well Hall in early November saw Blackheath run up a healthy looking 19 – 0 half time lead, only to lose focus after the break and concede three converted tries to hand victory to the Hertfordshire side.

More recently, Stortford’s last three games have all been away.  Despite losing two of them, the quality of their opposition, the reputation of the two stadiums (or stadia, if you prefer) for visiting sides, and the closeness of the final score all point at very good performances in all 3 matches.

On 10 March, our hosts travelled to the leafy suburbs of North Surrey to take on Esher.  After racing into a 0 – 18 lead, Stortford faced an onslaught from the home side, who fought their way back into the game to reach 17 – 18.  From that point, the visitors were able to re-exercise at least a modicum of control to put a further 10 points on the board and run out 17 (3) – 28 (3) winners.

The following weekend, Stortford travelled the 250-odd miles southwest to take on Plymouth Albion.  A game heavily influenced by a cold and snow-strewn wind saw the visitors outscore their opponents 2 tries to one in the first period for a 7 – 10 halftime lead. Albion were able to dominate most of the second half though, scoring a further converted try and a penalty to take a 17 – 10 lead.  Despite a roaring comeback in the last 5 or 10 minutes, Stortford were unable to work any further points and eventually succumbed to that 17 (2) – 10 (2) score line.

Last weekend, the Hertfordshire side hit the road again, this time in almost the opposite direction, heading 220-odd miles north to the Darlington Northern Echo Arena for what turned out to be a high scoring encounter with Darlington Mowden Park.  The second placed home side ran into a 10 – 0 lead, but once they found their feet, the visitors stormed back with three tries to wrestle a 10 – 21 advantage.  That became 17 – 21 and then 17 – 28, before DMP were able to exert greater control and overhaul their guests as the second half wore on, taking a 41 – 28 lead.  The lead was not to change hands again, although Stortford were able to dot down a fifth try and two bonus points before the whistle, final score 41 (5) – 35 (5).

Two losing bonus points and a four try-jobber from two of the most difficult away trips in the league taken in a row represent a very good return for the Hertfordshire outfit.

 

Match Day Details

Kick off at Silver Leys is 2.30pm.  The man in the middle is Veryan Boscawen, ably assisted by David Parsons and Matthew Todd.

The fairly miserable, showery weather of the last few days looks set to continue into the weekend.  Expect a lot of cloud and outbreaks of rain on and off throughout the day.  By kick off, the temperature may have eked its way up to around 8 degrees, but not much more than that.

If you are not travelling to Hertfordshire this weekend, don’t forget the always excellent Graham Cox on BBC Radio Kent (96.7 FM, 104.2 FM, 774 AM, DAB & On-line) who provides live score updates and reports, post-match interviews, plus a full round-up National League results for all Kent clubs after 5.00 pm.

Bishop's Stortford match pic - Tom Baldwin

 

Around the Grounds

There are a few other catch up games this weekend.  Good Friday also sees Old Elthamians (6th) with home advantage over Ampthill (3rd) in a 2pm kick off.

Saturday witnesses DMP (2nd) trying to cement first runner-up position as they take on Esher (12th) at the Northern Echo Arena.  Plymouth Albion (4th) will hope to take advantage of any slip up by Ampthill and jump them into third place if they can put Loughborough (14th) to the sword at Brickfields.  The Students are still fighting to escape the third relegation spot, but Plymouth is a long old trip and the home side must start as favourites.  Finally, Cambridge (10th) host Hull Ionians (13th) at Volac Park, in what could be a cracker as the on-paper favourites home side take on an Ionians’ side badly in need of some points to put distance between themselves and the drop zone.

 

Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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