The Big Match: Blackheath v Darlington Mowden Park

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Can Club Blow DMP Away?

by Nick Sullivan

I’m told there is a yellow wind warning for Well Hall tomorrow afternoon. Frankly, depending on where you stand in the ground, there is always quite a bit of that anyway, and some of it certainly does seem to a have a yellowy hue. But, apparently, this is a different sort of wind.

In fact, I didn’t realise until yesterday that the public vote on the names we now give to storms. So congratulations to whoever backed the rather innocuous sounding Storm Brian, which seems to be arriving at this moment. As it stands, a mouth-watering clash between the third and fourth placed sides could well be determined by who best uses the conditions as Blackheath welcome Darlington Mowden Park (3rd) to Well Hall.

This is the County Durham side’s fourth and, to date, best season at Level Three. They have retained the majority of last season’s squad, supplemented by some experienced additions in the closed season. A solid pack with some very good ball carriers – on loan flanker Simon Uzokwe regularly taking the plaudits but by no means the only such player. They are supported by an impressive backline who really need to be kept shackled tomorrow. Again, almost too many to mention, but watch for the powerful runs of winger Shaun McCartney who is enjoying a purple patch at the moment.

The League

National One as at Friday 20 October 2017

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Past Meetings and Recent Results

Blackheath’s first ever league encounter with DMP ended in near disaster as they slumped to a 50 – 10 away defeat on a very foggy afternoon in November 2014. Things have improved since then, with the two subsequent encounters at Darlo’s Northern Echo Arena being claimed one apiece, the Londoners winning the most recent 5 – 31 last November.

The record back at base, however, looks far better, the home side having won all three to date, albeit two very narrowly – within one score. That includes the last outing back in March, in which Blackheath edged their opponents 26 – 21, four tries to three.

This year, and befitting their league position of course, DMP have had a storming start winning all but one of their matches to date. The earliest of their last three was a home tie against newcomers Caldy on 30 September. The forwards helped the home side take possession and break the gain line with short runs but the scoring damage was done by DMP’s impressive backline who ran in 4 tries over the course of the afternoon. Whilst their opponents worked hard to turn around a 22 – 7 half time deficit and, indeed, eventually matched the try scoring total, two penalties made the difference and the hosts were able to put the game away 32 (4) – 26 (4).

The following weekend, our guests travelled south to meet Old Albanian. As Club supporters witnessed last weekend, OAs are perfectly capable of winning and keeping the ball and it was a while before they allowed the Durham side into the game, running up a 13 – 0 lead in the opening quarter. It took a forced reshuffle, following injury to the visiting No 9, before DMP registered their first points. Two successful penalties in fairly short order pulled them back to 13 – 6 before a late tackle allowed a home centre to take a 10 minute break, giving the dangerous Darlo backline more space than they really needed. Running in two tries that period, the visitors turned the scoring around to lead 13 – 18 at the half. Restored to 15, OAs were able to exert more control after the break, and the scoring see-sawed into the final five minutes, when OAs touched down to give themselves a 30 – 24 lead. The visitors were not done though, and forced their own converted try from the rear of a short range scrum. That looked to have wrapped the game up for the visitors but a failure to deal with the restart properly gave the hosts a last gasp strike at goal which they duly accepted. A nerve-jangling end at OAs 33 (3) – 31 (3) DMP.

Back at home last weekend, DMP opened the gates to Old Elthamians for the first time. Whilst, ultimately, they did live up to their favourites’ billing, it was not until the final quarter that the home side really stamped their authority on the game. Indeed, despite losing their fly half in the warm up, OEs twice took the lead, forcing the hosts to fight back and the first half ended 14 apiece. Sadly for the visitors, a yellow card shortly after the break caused defensive difficulties that DMP took advantage of to score their third try, improved with a penalty on the hour mark to take the score to 24 -14. This was extended a few minutes later when a lineout catch and drive illegally thwarted saw flanker Simon Uzokwe take a quick tap penalty and barge his way over from close range, taking his side’s tally to an unassailable looking 31 – 14. Elthamians were not quite done though and clawed back a try around 70 minutes but any hope of a bonus point was dashed moments later when DMP returned the favour with their fifth try and the final score of the day. Full time DMP 36 (5) – 21 (3) OEs.

Match Day Details

Kick off at Well Hall is at 3 pm. Officiating is Gareth Holsgrove ably assisted by Simon Dodd and Michael Tutty.

Mother Nature says don’t go leaving your pint cups lying around as they won’t stay put for long. Expect a consistent wind of around 18/20mph, gusting to 40/45mph at times. There is a chance of same rain and temperatures will reach around 14 degrees, although it will feel a fair bit cooler in that wind.

If you are not visiting Well Hall 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.

Team News

Blackheath First XV V Darlington Mowden Park HOME 21 October 2017

15. Leo FIELDING
14. Tom CHAPMAN
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Mark COOKE
11. Jake LLOYD
10. Joe TARRANT
9. Josh DAVIES
1. Hayden KING
2. Matt MILES
3. Danny HERRIOTT
4. Chukwuma OSAZUWA
5. Tom STRADWICK
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Harry BATE
8. Tom BALDWIN

16. Mike PERKS
17. James HALLAM
18. Sam FARMER
19. Jack WALSH
20. Hugh MCCORMICK-HOUSTON

Around the Grounds

The Coventry (1st) machine marches on, their 0 – 64 away win at Fylde last time out cementing their position at the top of the table. This Saturday they return home to welcome Loughborough Students (15th) to the BPA, with most punters predicting a bonus point win for the home side.

Second placed Plymouth Albion (2nd) also have home advantage against visiting Old Elthamians (6th). OEs will have travelled the length of the country in the course of 8 days, their 500 mile round trip to Devon matched only by last weekend’s similar length trek to Darlington. The old boys have shown themselves well suited to life in National One, but fell a little short against DMP last weekend and are unlikely to better the Devonians on home turf.

Third and fourth place face off at Well Hall of course, and moving on a position, Ampthill (5th) prepare for Cambridge (8th) to come a calling at Dillingham Park. Both teams come into this game with convincing wins under their belts – Amps besting Loughborough 14 – 36 in Leicestershire and Cambs handing out an 8 try, 50 – 23 thumping at home to Ross Park. Amps probably have too much power for their guests, with a home win the most likely result. Two sides with narrow wins last weekend (away to Esher and home to Hull respectively) meet in the West Midlands as Birmingham Moseley (9th) have home advantage over new boys Bishops Stortford (7th). Mose, looking for two victories on the trot for the first time this season, could find it a tough ask against an impressive Hertfordshire side who may nick a close game.

Despite the travelling, Caldy (10th) may well fancy their chances as they visit a stuttering Rosslyn Park (12th) side, the Southwest London outfit yet to establish any real rhythm this season. Based on last weekend’s performance, Old Albanian (13th) look deceptively low-placed. If the same team is available and can replicate the possession and territory, they have a good prospect to take the points at home to Esher (11th), the Surrey side looking to recover from a narrow home loss to Moseley last time out.

Finally, at the foot of the table, Hull Ionians (14th) will hope to climb out of the bottom three, starting as most observers’ favourites as they host bottom of the league Fylde (16th).

Heathens

A week away from Zoo League action gave the Heathens’ rivals a chance to make up ground, leaving the Club men in 5th place, their 5 matches so far garnering 19 points. Back in harness this weekend, the Heathens make the short journey across town to the Athletic Ground to face old sparring partners Richmond Vikings (IIs). The Vikings sit 4th in the table with a maximum haul of 20 points from their 4 games to date. Ahead of them are Ampthill, Old Elthamians and, top of the shop, London Scottish IIs, sitting on 25 points from their 5 matches.

Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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