by Nick Sullivan
Set the alarm for another early start as the men in red and black head north this weekend to the Northern Echo Arena for their meeting with Darlington Mowden Park (12th).
This is the County Durham’s side’s third season at Level Three and, despite a decent opening to the season – including a win away at Ampthill – they have hit some patchy form in the last few weeks and will be looking to reverse that this time out.
There’s been a fair bit of change at DMP over the closed season. Whilst the playing side remains under the experienced tutelage of John Newton and Danny Brown, off the field larger than anticipated losses have seen the chairman step down and, you’d imagine, a reduction in the playing budget. Loss of a few players at the end of 2015/16 – including the impressive half-back pairing of No 9 Bruno Bravo and 10 Warren Seals – has a left some big boots to fill. They have retained a core of experienced players though along with a sprinkling of new talent and, presumably, some Falcons’ Academy players.
Past Meetings and Recent Results
I’m not sure how long it takes to build up a voodoo, but Blackheath have yet to win at the Darlington Arena – although they have only visited twice. A heavy 50 – 10 loss on a very foggy November day in 2014 marked their first trip, followed by a far closer 14 – 12 defeat last February. The good news is that they have won both games at Rectory Field.
Darlington’s recent form has been patchy – their last three saw a 29 (4) – 14 (2) loss away at Loughborough Students on 22 October, a narrow 7 (1) – 15 (2) home loss to an impressive Moseley side, and an unexpected 43 (7) – 16 (1) defeat away at Macclesfield last weekend.
Match Day Details
Kick-off is 3pm. Ensuring fair play is Hamish Smales. Blackheath fans may well recognise the former Tynedale centre who has now taken up the whistle.
As for the weather, anyone travelling will find that any early rain clears over and it warms up to a balmy 9 degrees in Darlo, with a gentle 6mph breeze from the south.
If you are not travelling to the North east 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 Darlington Mowden Park AWAY 12 November 2016
15. James DAVIES
14. Tom CHAPMAN
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Geoff GRIFFITHS
11. Jake LLOYD
10. Mark COOKE
9. Sam EYDMANN
1. Aston CROALL
2. Dan GEORGE
3. Terry READ
4. Gregor GILLANDERS
5. Devin MONTGOMERY
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Chris WALKER
8. Tom BALDWIN
16. Mike PERKS
17. Kieron SCUTT
18. Anders NILSSON
19. Simon WHATLING
20. Dan HAMILTON
Around the Grounds
Elsewhere, improving Rosslyn Park (13th) may well find themselves favourites as they host Esher (7th) at The Rock. With a very narrow loss away at Coventry last week, Blaydon (16th) may fancy their chances back at Crow Trees as they take on Hull Ionians (14th).
In what could be a try fest, Cambridge (11th) have a home tie against Fylde (9th) and, following a huge win over DMP last weekend, Macclesfield (15th) will be geared up to take on Loughborough Students (8th) as they travel to the Leicestershire campus.
Two mighty packs clash in Bedfordshire where home side Ampthill (6th) hope to recover from last weekend’s close loss to Fylde as they take on Coventry (5th) at Dillingham Park. Old Albanian (10th), who put in a decent performance at Well Hall last time return home to welcome top of the shop Hartpury College (1st), who are still to drop a point.
Finally, another clash of the heavyweights sees Plymouth Albion (4th) take on Moseley (2nd) on the south coast.
A busy week for the Heathens continues, as they look to bounce back from a 40-3 defeat at home to Richmond Vikings last night, when they travel to Mid-Kent on Sunday for their Kent Cup quarter final clash against Maidstone with a 2pm kick off.
Why not have an afternoon out and support the boys.
Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!