The Big Match: Blackheath v Blaydon

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by Nick Sullivan

The Curtain Drops

Blimey. Where to start? Possibly the last league game at Rectory Field and the last time out for the Blackheath Legend that is Dave Allen.

As a passer-by of Well Hall on occasion, from a distance the pitch looks in decent nick, some proper tall floppy posts are up, there’s a railing around the pitch side and the temporary second stand is coming on. Keep an eye on the Club website over the closed season for updates. And maybe even some photos.

More importantly, what about that No 7? Joining the Club as a mere whipper-snapper in 2004, Dave is turning out for the 278th time* this weekend. Although 20 yellow cards means that he has spent 2½ games less than that actually on the pitch. That’s statistics for you. And for most of that period, Dave has had his head up someone else’s ar…umm… jumper, only being seen in public when he pops out the back of a maul for the odd breath of air and to score the occasional 145 tries.

In celebration of his illustrious career, tomorrow’ match is Dave’s testimonial, and the players will be wearing one-off tops designed by some special artists particularly for the occasion. You won’t miss them and the shirts will be auctioned off after the game.

As for Blackheath’s opponents tomorrow well, they’ve almost been around as long as the man of the moment. When they first visited Rectory Field, the end of season league table read: Otley – Manchester – Stourbridge – Westcombe Park – Blackheath – Cambridge – Wharfedale – Southend – Redruth – Blaydon – Waterloo – Nuneaton – Henley – Halifax.

And that was only nine years ago. Where are they all now? With Wharfedale’s departure from National One at the end of this season, these two sides will be the two longest serving in the league. So top your medication up for the two geriatrics as Blackheath (4th) take on Blaydon (11th).

*Are you sure you don’t want to hang around and make it 300 times Dave?

Previous Meetings and Recent Results

Some quick maths shows that this is the ninth meeting of the two sides at Rectory Field. Club hold the whip hand, with 5 wins, 2 losses and a 20-all draw (in November 2013). Compare that to their away record of 4 wins and 5 losses. The downside though is that last season’s meeting, in October 2014, was a 12–29 victory to Blaydon.

Mixed fortunes in Blaydon’s last three. A big 45–25 home win over Cinderford on 9 April was followed by a disappointing 31–20 away loss to bottom placed Henley Hawks. A recovery last weekend though, with an extremely impressive 27–14 victory over Darlington Mowden Park at Crow Trees.

Match Day Details

Kick off at is at 3pm.

Blowing the whistle in anger for the final time this season, we welcome Shane Lewis to the park, ably assisted by Christopher Bartlett and Matthew Shepherd.

And the weather. Not quite T-shirt time, but the cold spell of the last few days is passing over and it should be warming up into next week. After a mainly dry and sunny start, it will be clouding over by kick-off time and there may even be the odd shower. Temperature should hit 11 or 12 degrees with a light 8mph north-westerly.

If you are not visiting Rectory Field 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 around 5.15 pm.

Team News

Blackheath First XV V Blaydon HOME 30 April 2016

15. Geoff GRIFFITHS
14. Jake LLOYD
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Leo FIELDING
11. Dan HAMILTON
10. Freddie GABBITASS
9. Sam EYDMANN
1. Aston CROALL
2. Harry FRY
3. Terry READ
4. Gregor GILLANDERS
5. Devin MONTGOMERY
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Dave ALLEN
8. Tom STRADWICK

16. Kieron SCUTT
17. Scott WRIGHT
18. Shaun ENGLISH
19. Jack WALSH
20. Simon WHATLING

Around the Grounds

Richmond were unable to celebrate in style last weekend, unexpectedly losing at home to Rosslyn Park. The values of the game alive though, with Ross Park staying on the pitch to applaud their opponents’ achievement after the final whistle. And the Champions get a second bite of the cherry this weekend, as their final match is also at home against Plymouth Albion (5th).

In fact, surprisingly, all three teams above Blackheath lost last weekend and Club’s chance of edging another place or two up the year-end standing rely on one or two of them repeating that feat. So, a slip up by either Ampthill (3rd) at home to Esher (7th) or Hartpury College (2nd) at home to Hull Ionians (12th) with give the black and red their chance if they defeat Blaydon.

Darlington Mowden Park (8th) sign off with a home clash against already relegated Cinderford (14th). Bottom placed Henley (16th) meet Rosslyn Park (6th) at Dry Leas and Wharfedale (15th), in their last match of 16 years at Level Three, face off at home to Coventry. Finally, Loughborough (13th) complete their schedule with the visit of Fylde (10th).

Around us, Moseley have already been confirmed as joining National One from the Championship for next season. Macclesfield are run-away winners of National Two North and Sedgley Park have taken the runner-up berth. National Two South is now a two-horse race with Cambridge having a 2 point lead over Old Albanian. Both sides finish with home ties against already relegated sides so, on paper, Cambs must be favourite to take the title and OAs the play-off spot. Win or lose though, the next weekend’s play-off match will take place at the ground of the second placed National Two South side.

So with our very best wishes to Richmond for next year, and a tear, a fond farewell and good luck to Henley, Wharfedale and Cinderford, we hope you all bounce back soon, it’s Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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