By Nick Sullivan
♫… And now, the end is near and so I face the final curtain… ♫. Or whatever it was that Frank said. National One hits the final weekend of the 2018/19 season tomorrow, with promotion and two relegation spots still up for grabs.
None of that directly affects Blackheath though, for whom a win will secure third place, equalling their best finishes of the 2014/15 and 2011/12 seasons, although this would be Club’s best points’ haul.
On the other hand, it is a far more tense time for Well Hall’s guests and old friends Esher (15th). If the aim is to avoid relegation, nothing more than a bonus point win will do for the Hersham mob tomorrow. Even with that, they are reliant on the two clubs above them losing – well, actually, they need to Caldy to lose with no bonus points, and they need Cambridge to get no more than one bonus point. If Cambs were to get two points, the Eeees would have to beat their hosts by something like 116 points for it to make a difference. Clear?
So, no doubt, the Southeast London men will want to end their season on a high but it will be a tough old day at the office.
And…watch out for the spritely old figure of Geoff Griffiths on the bench. The great Club winger makes his swan song against former club Esher tomorrow. Griff has taken the decision to retire and concentrate on his collection of ridiculous Christmas jumpers. Good luck with whatever you do next Geoff.
Matt Miles has also taken the decision to retire and, after 4 seasons, Anders Nilsson is moving North somewhere that makes it a little hard to get to mid-week training. Good luck to you both.
National One as at Friday 27 April 2019
|1||Ampthill & District||29||22||1||6||918||563||355||20||5||115|
|8||Darlington Mowden Park||29||12||1||16||705||764||-59||15||7||72|
Past Meetings and Recent Results
This has been a pretty regular fixture on the list since Blackheath were promoted to Level Three for the 2004/05 season. The only gaps are our guests’ two year sojourn at Level Two in the 2007/08 & 08/09 seasons and then again over the course of the 10/11 & 11/12 campaigns. The mathematically gifted will realise that makes this the seventh straight season that these two have faced off.
In those 13 previous games, the record is Blackheath 9, Esher 4, with Blackheath being successful in all their home games. The men in black and white average 24 points/game to their opponents’ 20.5, although that becomes 26.5 to 15 at Club’s 6 home games. The reverse fixture on the opening day of the season resulted in an away win for the Well Hall Gang at 7 (1) – 36 (4). Last year’s fixtures both went to the home side – 28 (3) – 19 (3) at Molesey Road in October 2017 and the narrowest 29 (4) – 28(4) in SE9 the following February.
More recently, it may be a case of too little too late for Eeees as, despite their current predicament, they have won 2 of their last 3 and not gone without some sort of bonus point since the middle of February. The oldest of their most recent three was at home on 30 March, when they held off a solid Sale side to win 31 (4) – 29 (4). That was followed by a disappointing 43 (6) – 29 (4) reversal away at now-bottom Loughborough. Back to winning way the weekend before Easter though, with another hard-fought 34 (5) – 29 (4) home win over Chinnor.
Match Day Details
Kick off at Well hall is at 3pm. Ensuring fair play is Benjamin Wilde, ably assisted around the edges by Paul Kimber and Robert Carnell.
The changeable weather of the last few days looks set to continue. It will feel cooler than it has been, particularly with some gusty westerly winds blowing in. There is an outside chance of showers although any we do have are likely to have blown over by kick off. Temperatures will struggle to climb above 11 degrees.
Blackheath First XV V Esher HOME 27 April 2019
15. Leo FIELDING
14. Jake LLOYD
13. Henry STAFF
12. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
11. Alex PICKERSGILL
10. Mark COOKE
9. Jack DALY
1. Tom WILLIAMS
2. Harry FRY
3. Danny HERRIOTT
4. Josh PETERS
5. Tom STRADWICK
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Harry BATE
8. Anders NILSSON
16. Matt MILES
17. Billy YOUNG
18. Andrew DAISH
19. Stef LIEBENBERG
20. Geoff GRIFFITHS
Around the Grounds
Well, more or less everything is still up for grabs on the final day. The only team with its fate already decided is Loughborough Students (16th). Regardless of other results, the University side will be relegated next weekend. That may be a kindness as, whilst they do have home advantage this weekend, it is against top of the shop Ampthill (1st). Amps need a solitary point to clinch the title, although most punters imagine them taking the full 5 on offer to secure the league in style.
Old Elthamians (2nd) have the faint glimmer of glory in their sights. Maximum points at home to Rotherham (5th) will see them into the Championship if Ampthill slip up in Leicestershire. Rosslyn Park (4th), who can do no worse than their current league position and can jump a place if Club lose, are favourites with home advantage to beat Cinderford (7th). The Forest of Dean side lead a clutch of teams in mid-table and could finish anywhere between 7th and 11th.
Battling it out next up are Darlington Mowden Park (8th) and Bishop’s Stortford (9th). Both come into the game of the back of two losses but the 230-odd mile trip for the Hertfordshire side may take the gloss of an otherwise end of season extravaganza. Chinnor (10th), who felt Esher’s wrath last time out falling 34 – 29 at Molesey Road, end the season at home. They welcome Plymouth Albion (6th) to Kingsey Road. There is a strange consistency to the Devon side’s last 8 games, having won all the home ties and lost all on the road, although whether that record has any bearing on tomorrow’s match is anyone’s guess.
Turning to the business end of the league, although safe themselves, Sale (11th) will be looking to recover from a heavy defeat at Ampthill last time out but host a Cambridge (14th) side who will come out all guns blazing in search of the win they desperately need to give them a chance of survival. The real ding-dong battle could be in the West Midlands though as Moseley (12th), who look for the single point they need to survive, prepare for the visit of Caldy (13th). A number of permutations affect the Wirral side, but if they win, they stay up.
In fact, there is more certainty around who is joining us next year than there is about who is leaving us. Up there on Championship Hill, great swathes of time seem to pass between fixtures and then, strangely, the one weekend they don’t get off is Easter. The holiday weekend’s results mean that old friends and sparring partners Richmond will rejoin us for the 2019/20 campaign.
At the other end, both Hull Ionians (Two North) and Reading Rams (2 South) are already Champions Elect of their respective leagues. Congratulations to Canterbury who are guaranteed home advantage in the National Two play-off in which, regardless of results this weekend, they will welcome Chester to the Marine Travel Ground on 4th May.
Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!