The Big Match: Rosslyn Park v Blackheath

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Will Blackheath be Solid at the Rock?

Well, fingernails and nerves hopefully recovered and regrown after last week’s edge of the seat stuff, it’s time for the second round of Blackheath’s tough opening to the 2017/18 season.

This time out, Club make a short trip round the South Circular to SW15 to face old friends and sparring partners Rosslyn Park (1st). After a poor start to last season, Park stormed through the middle and late months with some style, albeit faltering again in their last few games. They eventually finished 6th, one place above their opponents, having completed the double over them in the process.

This time out, Head Coach Kieran Power has made numerous signings to strengthen the squad, comprising 6 forwards: hookers Karl Gibson (Ealing) and Owen Hughes (Wales U20); props Conor McGrath (Bath Uni) and Ollie Smith (St Mary’s Uni/Redingensians); second/back rows Matt MacPherson (Loughborough Students) and Mike Macfarlane (returning to the club after a stint with Ealing). They are joined by 8 backs: No 10 Jacob Atkins and wingers Ollie Hassell-Collins and Matt Williams (all on loan from Irish); winger Levi Davis (on loan from Bath); centre Huw Morgan (Wharfedale), centre/winger Rhys Crane (Ealing and briefly seen in Club colours a few seasons back), centre/winger Benji Marfo (Loughborough and winger Alfie Dudman-Jones (Manchester Uni).

Leaving the club are co-head coach Scott Sneddon (to Hong Kong) and the experienced heads of Ed Milne (to London Scottish) and Mark Kohler (relocating). Temporarily (hopefully) missing the early season are Dave Vincent and Harry Broadbent.

Past Meetings and Recent Results

Believe it or not, this is currently the oldest continuing fixture in National One, dating all the way back to the medieval 2010/11 season (Club have also played Coventry ever since, but the Ross Park clash came first). Honours are even at seven wins a piece, although recent history favours Park, having done the double over Blackheath last season with a 28 – 3 win at home in October and a 15 – 36 win at Well Hall in February.

Park roared into this season with an outstanding nine try, 0 – 58, away win at Old Albanian. Of course, we are always cautioned never to read too much in to first match results but to win by that margin away from home and prevent your opponents from scoring looks a very impressive feat. A solid defence and high tempo running rugby seem to have done the damage.

Match Day Details

Kick off at the Rock is 3 pm. Officiating is Matt Turvey assisted around the edges by Christopher Bartlett and Tracy Pettingale.

Mother Nature plans a bit of a wet weekend. Early sunshine is likely to prove a deceptive marker as it is likely to cloud over as the day goes on with scattered showers likely by kick off and through until early evening. Temperatures are likely to reach 17 or 18 degrees, accompanied by a 9 mph easterly.

If you are not travelling to Barnes 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 pm.

Team News

This weekend’s starting line-up is very similar to the side that faced Plymouth, missing Jamie Davies (shoulder) and CJ (unavailable). Tom Chapman and Shaun English slot into familiar positions.

Blackheath First XV V Rosslyn Park AWAY 9 September 2017

15. Sam EVANS
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
11. Jake LLOYD
9. Josh DAVIES
1. Hayden KING
2. Matt MILES
4. Shaun ENGLISH
5. Neale PATRICK
7. Harry BATE

16. Harry FRY
17. George BAKER
18. Freddie OWEN
19. Jake BEDDING
20. Sam FARMER

Around the Grounds

It’s a weekend of local derbies for many – although sadly not all – this weekend. The reverse of this week’s fixtures are the pre-Christmas matches and it is worth remembering that they take place on 23rd December this year, so make sure you have all your presents wrapped up nice and early. Or else, wait until the post-Christmas sales before buying them, which will make the whole enterprise so much kinder on the wallet.

Ampthill (9th), who managed a nerve-wracking draw away in Birmingham last week, host Old Albanian (16th), who finished clear second to Ross Park last time out. New boys Caldy (11th) have their first home match at home to local rivals Fylde (13th), both of whom are attempting to recover from defeats last weekend. Fylde’s conquerors Cambridge (7th) have a home tie against Loughborough Students (12th).

Title favourites Coventry (2nd) return home on Saturday on the back a resounding 20 – 63 away win at Hull last weekend to face Moseley (8th). Hull Ionians (15th) themselves start their season with 2 home games, this time entertaining Darlington Mowden Park (5th), who started their campaign with a bonus point victory over Loughborough.

Two newcomers meet in Southeast London, where Old Elthamians (14th), who fell at Esher last weekend, host Bishops Stortford (4th), victors over Caldy, at College Meadow. And, finally, Blackheath’s opponents from last weekend Plymouth Albion (10th) have home advantage in the not-quite-so-local derby against Esher (3rd).


The Heathens began their Zoo Shield campaign with a 19 – 14 home victory over the Richmond Saxons (IIIs) to put them 5th of 14 on the opening week’s table. Another home fixture in store this weekend as they face Cinderford IIs at Well Hall, kick off 3 pm.

Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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