Bubble, bubble, toil and transport problems
by Nick Sullivan
Yes, it’s Halloween and somebody’s put a hex on the trains (see Match Day Details below). So, first things first, remember to allow extra time tomorrow if you’re travelling by public transport.
This weekend, Blackheath pack their jack-o-lanterns and head around the South Circular to Priory Lane to go trick or treating at Rosslyn Park (14th).
Nobody quite sure what is going on at Ross Park this year. A strong core side remaining from the last campaign, some great signings in the closed season, but something’s not been clicking and the mighty southwest London side languish 14th in the table. In reality, that probably belies their real strength and they will be pretty confident of propelling their way up the league in coming months. Look at their points difference – at +8, it is better than six of the sides above them. Generally, they have ‘only just’ lost the games they’ve lost and that includes good – although ultimately falling short – performances against Ampthill and Moseley.
New to the Park rosta this year are: Stewart Maguire (prop, Ealing and London Scottish, those with sharper recall may remember him playing the odd game on loan at Rectory Field a couple of seasons ago); Suvwe Obano (prop, Dorking); Paul Spivey (lock, Ealing and London Scottish); three back rows in the form of Rory Martin-Smith (Sabre Kowloon), Jamie Harries (returning after a year out), Harry Hudson (Southend); Russell Weir (scrum half, London Scottish and Scotland 7s); Harry Leonard (fly half, Yorkshire Carnegie); centres Ollie Grove (Lon Scottish), Toby Howley-Berridge (Cambridge, Donny, Plymouth Albion, Ealing), Huw Morgan (Wharfedale) and the vastly experienced Andy Reay (Harlequins, Bristol, Moseley, London Scottish, Ealing) who has also taken up a role as strength and conditioning coach.
All in all, our opponents have a side very capable of pulling a Halloween surprise and the men in red and black will be well-prepared for the threat.
Oh, and don’t forget, we revert to GMT this weekend as the clocks go back an hour.
Past Meetings and Recent Results
These two sides – of course – have a history stretching back many generations, but in recent years have been facing each other at level three for the last 6 seasons. Blackheath edge the series with 7 wins to Ross Park’s 5, comprising 4 home and 3 away victories, including both of last season’s meetings. The biggest margin between the two at Prior Lane was Park’s 29 – 9 win in March 2013, with Club’s best away win being the 18 – 31 result last October.
Despite their lowly position in the current table, there are recent signs of Park finding their form. Three weeks ago, they showed great character to fight back from 20 – 3 down away at Loughborough, a late drop goal seeming to give them a 23 -26 win, only for cruel fate to grant the students one last play – and a penalty – to tie things up 26 all at the final whistle.
On 15 October, in a game that many gave them little chance of winning, Park came close to turning over second placed Moseley, eventually going down 24 – 31 in a thrilling home tie. Finally, last weekend, Park travelled to Cheshire to face fellow strugglers Maccesfield. The home side shaded the first half, starting the second period 18 – 14 (2 tries apiece) ahead. Park were to dominate after the break though, with Macc offering little threat themselves and spending their time holding the visitors back. Constant Ross Park pressure eventually told though and they ran riot in the last quarter, running in a further three tries and a penalty, giving the travelling support an 18 – 36 bonus point victory to celebrate.
Match Day Details
Kick off at The Rock is 3pm and ensuring fair play is Phil Davies, assisted on the touch-lines by Simon Dodd and Timothy Bailey.
Important Note: No, seriously, it is. Engineering works on the Ross Park side of the divide this weekend mean that there are no services to Barnes from Waterloo. If you are thinking of travelling by public transport, allow extra time and the official advice is to get the train to Clapham Junction where there is a rail replacement bus service along the Barnes route. That is likely to be the quickest way. If you are feeling fit though, you could get the District Line out to East Putney, have some lunch there, and then walk/bus/cab the final 1.5/2 miles along the South Circular.
As for the weather, the predicted wind this weekend doesn’t even officially qualify as a breeze, the expected 2/3 mph current being affectionately known as ‘light air’ in meteorological circles. Contrast that with the ‘heavy air’ generated by some the folks I stand near…
Ahem. Anyway, that aside, it will stay overcast for much of the day, perhaps the odd bright spell, with temperatures reaching a half-decent 14/15 degrees.
If you are not travelling to Priory Lane 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.
Blackheath First XV V Rosslyn Park AWAY 29 October 2016
15. Leo FIELDING
14. Tom CHAPMAN
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Mark COOKE
11. Jake LLOYD
10. Simon WHATLING
9. Sam EYDMANN
1. Aston CROALL
2. Dan GEORGE
3. Terry READ
4. Gregor GILLANDERS
5. Devin MONTGOMERY
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Sam FARMER
8. Tom BALDWIN
16. Harry FRY
17. Kieron SCUTT
18. Tom STRADWICK
19. Geoff GRIFFITHS
20. Jamie DAVIES
Around the Grounds
Famous last words perhaps, but Cambridge (11th) looked a decent side last weekend and may well end the season slightly higher up the table than at present. That said, their fortunes are unlikely to change this weekend, as they host all-conquering Hartpury College (1st) at Volac Park.
Blaydon (16th) continue to suffer, returning home from a 71 – 24 thumping away at Esher to take on Fylde (10th) at Crow Trees. The Geordies will target this as a game upon which to impose themselves but the Lancastrians will have different ideas after a solid home performance against Ionians last time out. Esher themselves (9th) have a far tougher prospect this weekend, as they travel to Bedfordshire to face an Ampthill (6th) side that are probably favourites to bounce back from two consecutive defeats. Contrast that with another side looking to recover from two successive defeats (both on the road) – Darlington Mowden Park (8th) – who are unlikely to start as top dog against visiting Moseley (2nd).
A clash of two solid packs sees Hull Ionians (13th) pitted against Coventry (7th) on Humberside. Old Albanian (12th) will fancy their chances back at Woollam Fields against misfiring Macclesfield (15th) and Plymouth Albion (4th) must start as favourites at home to the other college side, Loughborough Students (5th).
Well, after large week’s Friday night excitement, the Heathens return to action this weekend with a more conventional Saturday afternoon Zoo League fixture as they host Bury St Edmunds Wolfhounds at The Rectory Field. Kick-off is at 2.30pm
15. Steve MCNAMARA
14. Dan HAMILTON
13. Alex PICKERSGILL
12. Ed ORAM
11. Matt WEKPE
10. Ian CROSS
9. Lloyd SWIFT
1. Bertie HASKINS
2. Mike PERKS
3. Reece CONLON
4. Ben DICKSON
5. Shaun ENGLISH
6. Ruairi FALLON
7. Ryan WARD
8. Anders NILSSON
16. George BAKER
17. Chris SHORTER
18. Ben COOPER
19. Josh HAWKINS
20. Jake BEDDING
21. Kel ODUOZA
Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!