as published in the South London Press
Blackheath’s fine opening to their 2015/16 National League One campaign continued on Saturday with a hard-fought 15-10 victory against newly-promoted Ampthill.
In their first ever league visit to Dillingham Park, the Club stormed into 12-0 lead after 20 minutes with tries from Dave Allen, the open-side’s fifth in as many matches, and a second from right-wing Jake Lloyd. The Bedfordshire side, who had started the day at the top of the table, fought back with a penalty and try of their own, but outstanding defence, and a late strike from fly-half Freddie Gabbitass, saw the visitors home.
It was a huge effort, particularly from the forwards who, under the guidance of new director of rugby Colin Ridgway and coach and former Scottish international tight-head Mattie Stewart, have only just come together and are still moulding themselves as a brand new Club pack.
With a number of retirements in recent seasons, including long-standing club captain Tom Bason, Blackheath have had to rebuild, and one of their new recruits is lock-forward Devin Montgomery.
The 26-year old from Johannesburg has quickly formed a formidable second-row partnership with Gregor Gillanders (also new to Blackheath colours this term), not only securing possession on his own side’s ball but regularly disrupting and turning over opposition play, most notably in the 31-18 win against Rosslyn Park a fortnight ago when the promotion hopefuls were never allowed to settle until the game was beyond them.
This is Devin’s second stint in the UK, having spent a brief time with Llanelli Scarlets Academy in 2009, but this time he is planning on a longer stay.
‘I’m looking to be here for around five years,’ he said. ‘My priority is to develop and further my game, but I understand the importance of life after rugby too. So my aim is to play as a semi-professional while advancing my career as a Quantity Surveyor at the same time.’
Devin has prepared well for a life outside of rugby. A BSc in quantity surveying was followed by an MSc in engineering, all achieved while playing for WITS University (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), whom he captained for two seasons, in the Varsity Cup, Golden Lions at U21 level (also as captain) as well as Northern Free State-side Griffins in the Vodacom Cup.
Like so many in the southern hemisphere, he embraces the outdoor life, excelling in swimming and cricket but, inspired by such Springbok greats as Joe Van Niekerk, Bakkies Botha (‘great physicality and athleticism for a big man’), as well as All Blacks’ legends Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, it was rugby union that became his first choice.
‘Simon Legg (Blackheath’s former director of rugby) first got in touch about three years ago, so the Club has been on my radar for some time,’ continued Devin who rises to a height of 6’4” and weighs in at 113Kg.
‘Now I’m finally here though I’m loving it. The boys and supporters are awesome and we’re playing some great rugby. Training, playing and working doesn’t leave a lot of free time, but I’m enjoying getting around and exploring. There’s a lot to see and do in London.’
Blackheath face Wharfedale at Rectory Field tomorrow afternoon in their next National League One match, and Devin will don the number five jersey once again, but following the match he won’t be wasting much time as he heads into the clubhouse to follow South Africa as they take on Wales in the first quarter final of the Rugby World Cup.
Devin had to endure the ribbing of his teammates four weeks ago as they all crowded around him to watch Japan’s last ditch victory against his countrymen, but now the Springboks are progressing well.
‘Obviously it was a huge shock to lose our opening game against Japan. They thoroughly deserved the win though as they were better than us on the day.’
‘I think the loss was a good wake up call for South Africa as it got rid of any complacency they had. We have looked better in the games following Japan, but the quarter finals clash against Wales is going to be a huge challenge.’
Blackheath against Wharfedale is a 3 pm kick-off at Rectory Field tomorrow and both the Wales v South Africa and the New Zealand v France quarter finals will be shown in the clubhouse.