Well then, eyes down, game on. The phoney war is over and the new National One campaign kicks off in earnest on Saturday afternoon.
And if you ever wanted a tough start to the season…this is it. In their first four matches, Blackheath face most punters’ favourites for the title (Plymouth and Coventry) and two sides likely to be well in the mix come next April (Rosslyn Park and Ampthill). It all begins tomorrow with the visit of Kieran Hallett’s Plymouth Albion to Well Hall.
Plymouth are ambitious to return to the Championship and, were it not for those pesky kids at Hartpury College, they would have achieved that ambition last season. Their second placed points haul of 118 last time out was more than the 116 Richmond amassed to win the league in the previous season, so that says something about the strength of the side.
Albion haven’t been idle in the closed season either. Amongst their signings for the current outing are some stars from higher leagues including fly half Dan Mugford from Sale (and briefly glimpsed in Club colours several seasons ago), prop Ricky Cano (a team mate of Blackheath’s own Danny Herriot at Rotherham last year) and prop Luke Chapman from Cornish Pirates. In addition, Albion now has the services of flanker Eoghan Grace from Coventry and young guns Ted Landry (Exeter 7s) in the backline and John Kelly (Luctonians, Otago) as a second/back row player.
A stern test for Blackheath then, as they look to start their season in style in tomorrow’s autumn sunshine.
Past Meetings and Recent Results
This is the 7th time the two sides have met since the millennium, with Albion holding the whip hand. Way back when you got 2 points for a win and one for a draw in the 2000/01 season, the Devon side were victorious 41 – 0 at home and 13 – 19 when visiting Rectory Field.
Blackheath’s one win in the series to date came in the first half of the 2015/16 season, a convincing 34 – 3 home win in November 2015. Albion took the return match 20- 19 though, the tight score line not accurately reflecting Plymouth’s dominance. Last time out, Club lost 20 – 5 away at Brickfields a couple of weeks before Christmas, followed by a disappointing 7 – 48 mauling at Well Hall in mid-April.
Albion’s pre-season probably went as expected. Losses away at Championship sides Bedford (43 – 7) and Cornish Pirates (22 – 14) and victories at home over National 2’s Redruth (10 – 0) and Southwest Premier’s Ivybridge (43 – 17) helped brush off the cobwebs.
Match Day Details
Kick off at Well Hall is at the usual time of 3pm. Ensuring fair play is Veryan Boscawen, ably assisted by Stephen Light and Robert Carnell.
Mother Nature’s contribution to proceedings is some early autumn sunshine with temperatures creeping up to around 20 degrees and barely a whiff of a breeze.
If you cannot make 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.
Blackheath First XV V Plymouth Albion HOME 2 September 2017
15. Sam EVANS
14. Jamie DAVIES
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Alex PICKERSGILL
11. Jake LLOYD
10. Joe TARRANT
9. Josh DAVIES
1. Hayden KING
2. Matt MILES
3. Danny HERRIOTT
4. Chukwuma OSAZUWA
5. Neale PATRICK
6. Tom STRADWICK
7. Harry BATE
8. Tom BALDWIN
16. Harry FRY
17. George BAKER
18. Sam FARMER
19. Jake BEDDING
20. Aled JENKINS
Around the Grounds
One of this season’s other highly fancied sides, Coventry, start their season away at Hull Ionians. Darlington Mowden Park, who seem to have recruited well in the off season, open the gates of the Arena to visiting Loughborough Students. The Students have recently announced a tie up with Leicester Tigers and it will be interesting to see what that brings in the way of resources and coaching.
Two sides likely to be in the mix at the end of the year meet in the West Midlands as Birmingham Moseley host Ampthill in what could be a cracking match. Another corker could be in prospect as two sides renowned for their running meet further up-country as Fylde prepare a welcome for Cambridge. Shanners’ former charges Old Albanian also begin with a home tie against Rosslyn Park.
Two newcomers go head to head in Hertfordshire – last year’s South and North champions, Bishops Stortford and Caldy, face off for the first time in National One. Finally, local boys Old Elthamians also get their taste of National One life as they make the short hop round the South Circular to face Esher.
The Heathens kick off their 2017/18 Zoo Shield campaign with a home tie against Richmond Saxons (IIIs). Venue and kick off TBA at present.
Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!