The Big Match: Blackheath v Coventry

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by Nick Sullivan

The men in red and black return home this weekend with the fillip of a great win over away bogey side Fylde last weekend. The 30 – 45 twelve try thriller is the first victory on the Lancashire coast since the two sides have been meeting in the league at this level.

This weekend, Blackheath (4th) meet another doyenne of the game in the shape of Coventry (9th). A disappointing season by their own standards, Coventry have found a run of form recently and, whilst unable to climb any higher than their current 9th place (or 8th if and when a points’ deduction elsewhere kicks in), they have been playing some entertaining rugby recently and will want to continue in that vein to sign of their season in style.

Previous Meetings and Recent Results

The five previous National Two meetings at Rectory Field show honours even. The first, in March 2011, resulted in a 27-all draw and it’s been win – lose – win – lose since then.

The most recent, on a cold December day in 2014, saw a heavy 12 – 36 defeat for the home side although Blackheath hold the upper hand so far this season. A tremendous comeback on a grotty December day saw them snatch a 16 – 24 victory away at Butts Park Arena.

Our opponents have put together a decent run of form in the last few weeks, having won all of their previous three games. On 19 March, they got the try bonus point at home, beating a feisty Cinderford side 33 (4T) – 27 (4T). A fortnight later, they ran in 6 tries in Oxfordshire whilst putting struggling Henley Hawks to the sword, winning 27 (3T) – 39 (6).

Their most impressive recent result was last weekend’s 27 (3T) – 10 (1T) defeat of visiting Darlington Mowden Park. Despite the Cov scrum suffering at the hands of their visitors, DMP’s inability to keep the ball in hand and repeated penalty concessions at the breakdown seemed to nullify any advantage they had. Sterling home defence and a backline prepared to be adventurous passing the ball around were the hallmarks of a well-deserved Coventry victory.

Match Day Details

Kick off at Rectory Field is at 3pm.

Ensuring fair play this weekend is Fergus Kirby ably assisted by Simon Dodd and Chris Fowke.

And the weather. Those sunny days earlier in the week may be temporarily deserting us. A cloudy start, turning showery by md-afternoon and drying out in the evening. Temperatures will be around 7 or 8 degrees, but feeling a bit chillier in a cool 10mph north wind.

If you cannot make Rectory Field 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.

Team News

Blackheath First XV V Coventry HOME 16 April 2016

15. Freddie GABBITASS
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
10. Simon WHATLING
1. Aston CROALL
2. Harry FRY
3. Terry READ
5. Shaun ENGLISH
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Dave ALLEN
8. Anders NILSSON

16. Conor MITCHELL
17. Kieron SCUTT
18. Tom ELLIS
19. Jack WALSH
20. Jake LLOYD

Around the Grounds

Match of the day is in Gloucestershire where Hartpury College (2nd) play host to Richmond (1st). Victory to the team from southwest London will secure them the league title. Hartpury are hardly likely to lie down though and a ding-dong contest awaits.

Immediately above Blackheath, Ampthill (3rd) have home advantage against last week’s opponents Fylde (10th). At the other end of the table, two teams whose fates were decided last weekend meet at Dry Leas as relegated Henley Hawks (16th) welcome now mathematically safe Blaydon (11th). Wharfedale (14th) must get the points at home to the side immediately above them, Hull Ionians (13th), to give themselves any chance of survival and, similarly, Cinderford (15th) must bag the points away at Rosslyn Park (8th) to give themselves any hope of National One rugby next year.

The appearance of Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club (2016) Ltd on Companies House suggests that the phoenix is about to rise from the ashes although, despite a number of unofficial confirmations, an unimpeachably official announcement (or the accompanying 30 point deduction which would drop them to 10th place) has yet to be publicly released by the RFU. Albion (5th) travel to Leicestershire to meet Loughborough Students (12th), where a win for the home side will see them safe from relegation.

Finally, home advantage probably makes Darlington Mowden Park (7th) favourites to beat Esher (6th).

And an eye on next season’s league

Looking to the heavens, an angel is falling to earth and with two games to go, the battle to join National One next season is between 12th placed Moseley on 24 points and Ealing in 11th on 28. Ealing have the benefit of two home games to finish, whereas Mose have the misfortune to be travelling to league leaders Bristol tonight.

In Two North, Macclesfield’s victory over title rivals Sedgley Park last time out secures promotion for the boys in blue. Twenty points ahead of Sedge with only four games to play, Macc have won 5 more games than the Tigers so, even in the unlikely event that they are level on points come the final day, Macc claim the league on number of wins. Park look odds-on for the play-off position though, with really only Stourbridge with anything other than a remote chance of catching them.

National Two South remains undecided – three games to go and top of the shop Cambridge have a 5 point advantage over the only other title contender Old Albanian. OAs themselves are 12 points clear of the only other play-off candidate, Bishops Stortford. Regardless of other results, Albanian’s final game is a home tie against Cornish All Blacks, who have not won all season, so it will take quite a reversal of form to prevent OAs from at least qualifying for the play-offs. The only other odds-on bet, if not yet a mathematical certainty, is that the play-off will be at the ground of the qualifying Two South side.

Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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