by Nick Sullivan
A battle of two doyennes of the game this weekend as Blackheath travel a 120–odd miles north-west to face Coventry RFC.
Pre-season, most pundits ranked Coventry as one of the two most likely title contenders this year. A patchy season, by their own standards, to date has left them in a respectable seventh place as we head into this weekend’ clash. Performances seem to be on the up in recent games, but Cov remain some way off the leader’s pace.
One of the features of Coventry’s recent closed seasons is the large number of new recruits and it seems to have been no change this year. Towards the end of last season, Head Coach Scott Morgan was joined by former Leicester and All Black full back Scott Hamilton as player-coach who remains in situ for the current campaign.
In the pack, signings are almost too numerous to mention, but include Terry Sigley , prop (former England Counties); Jake Caulfield, prop (Ireland U20s & Cinderford); Devlin Hope, hooker (Western Province); Courtney Roberts, lock (Manukau); Martin Wolfenden, lock (Zimbabwe & Cambridge); Ben Thomas, lock (Rotherham) and backrows Joe Carpenter (Moseley), Alex Woodburn (Gloucester & Hartpury) and Tom Preece.
In the back line, joining are Caolan Ryan, fly half (Moseley, Stourbridge & Bromsgrove); James Tincknell, centre (ex-London Welsh, Cornish Pirates, Doncaster Knights, Leeds Carnegie & Wharfedale) and wingers Peter Weightman (Tynedale) and Ryan Hough (Nottingham).
Past Meetings and Recent Results
Since the two sides first met in the current National One for the 2010/11 season, Butts Park Arena (BPA) has not been a happy hunting ground for the men from Southeast London.
Blackheath’s one victory in five attempts was a 23-33 reversal in March 2012. The other four are losses, a particularly heavy 63- 21 defeat in October 2013 follow by 49–29 thumping last year, so the boys are hoping to put that behind them with a return to winning ways this time around.
As far as the last three are concerned, two features that stand out are a superiority at the set scrum, but a lack of discipline when under pressure. On 21 November they returned from Cinderford six tries to the good following a 13 – 38 away win. The following weekend they welcomed Henley Hawks to the BPA for a match played in some appalling wind and, despite allowing their opponents back into the match in the second half, they had sufficiently dominated the first period to take a 29 – 15 victory, including the 4 try bonus.
Last weekend, Cov’s trip north to Darlington Mowden Park was plagued by transport problems and, despite some strong play in patches, they were too inconsistent against the improving DMP. In the end, they went down 29 – 21 to the home side.
Match Day Details
Kick off at Butt Park Arena is at 3pm.
Officiating is James Clarke, ably assisted by Leo Burton and Rhys Davies.
The weather. It’s a little chilly in the West Midlands at the moment but temperatures should rise over the course of Saturday to hit double figures – 10 degrees – by kick off. Heavy rain is expected all day with the wind picking up from the west to around 14mph.
If you are not travelling to the West Midlands 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 Coventry AWAY 12 December 2015
15 Owain James
14 Jake Lloyd
13 Markus Burcham
12 Simon Whatling
11 Hamish Graham
10 Freddie Gabbitass
9 Jack Walsh
1 Aston Croall
2 Scott Wright
3 Will Stuart
4 Gregor Gillanders
5 Devin Montgomery
6 Tom Stradwick
7 Dave Allen
8 Anders Nilsson
16 George Edgson
17 Kieron Scutt
18 Chris Sewell
19 Jake Bedding
20 Leo Fielding
Around the Grounds
There’s a clash of the titans at the Richmond Athletic Ground as Richmond (1st) welcome Hartpury College (2nd) in the match of the day.
Significant action at the other end of the table too as the bottom three all have difficult fixtures, with Wharfedale (16th) away at Hull Ionians (11th), Henley (15th) travelling to Blaydon (13th) and Cinderford 14th) hosting Rosslyn Park (5th). If all three fail to come away with the spoils, fresh air appears between 13th and 14th place, particularly so if Loughborough Students (12th) can take something from their away fixture at Plymouth Albion (8th).
Poised to take advantage of any slip up above them, the possibility of finishing the day in second place will spur Esher (4th) on as they host Darlington Mowden Park (10th). Finally, last weekend’s opponents, Fylde (9th) return to the Lancashire coast to welcome Ampthill (6th).
Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!