The Big Match: Blackheath v Esher

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by Nick Sullivan

Well well well. Hall.

Picture the scene…the mist rises from a dewy pitch as the melodious sound of the lark’s dawn rhetoric heralds the curtains drawing on the morn of a fresh season. The mighty gates of Well Hall drift effortless open to reveal the sun drenched new jewel in the crown of Southeast London as it welcomes its first visitors for a league game in anger. Or something like that.

And if that isn’t enough, allied with the new home ground is Southeastern’s revolutionary idea of running trains to a timetable. This radical concept makes it child’s play for anyone planning a first trip to Blackheath’s Sowfeast Lundun outpost. A few minutes’ walk from Eltham Station, which itself is only 20 minutes on the train from London Bridge, and by car, just off the A2 and South Circular. See the website menu ‘Club Info’…’Location’ for the various travel options.

The pitch is polished like a shiny new penny as Blackheath host Esher in their first home game of the campaign.

The Molesey Road outfit have strengthened their squad this season with some hefty looking front row signings including, all the way from New Zealand, prop Karl Furey. Joining the second row is former New York Jet, American Eagle and Saracens’ lock Hayden Smith and slotting into the back line is Saracens and England Sevens flyer Sam Stanley.

On top of those three, Archie White enters the second row on a dual-registration deal with Harlequinns and Isaac Curtis-Harris packs down in the back row on a similar deal with London Irish. So an impressive looking pack for Blackheath to face down as they look to make amends for last weekend’s trip to Gloucestershire.

Oh, and juuuuust before we move on, hands up who can name all this year’s law amendments? Keep your eyes open for:-

a) The replacement of a player injured following foul play does not count as one of the allotted number of replacements available to that team.

b) Advantage may be played following a scrum collapse if there is no risk to player safety.

c) Play acting or simulation is specifically outlawed in the game in a move to address a concern that has been creeping into the game in recent years. Any player who dives or feigns injury in an effort to influence the match officials will be liable for sanction.

d) Teams must be ready to form a scrum within 30 seconds of the scrum being awarded, unless the referee stops the clock for an injury or another stoppage.

e) If a scrum is reset following a 90-degree wheel, the ball is thrown in by the team that previously threw it in rather than the team not in possession.

f) The scrum-half is no longer allowed to speak for the entirety of the game unless given specific permission by the referee, who will also indicate the number of allowable words.

g) If a scrum is stationary, and the ball has been at the No.8’s feet for 3-5 seconds, the referee will call “use it” and the attacking team must use the ball immediately in a move similar to that currently used with rucks and mauls.

h) Finally, a maul guideline currently used in the southern hemisphere will be replicated in the north. The ball can be moved backwards hand-to-hand once the maul has formed. A player is not allowed to move or slide to the back of the maul when he is in possession of the ball and the ripper needs to stay in contact with the jumper until they have transferred the ball.

No, wait, that scrum half one at (f) is not quite right. In fact, they can still go babbling away for the full 80, but what they can no longer do is to move into the space between flanker and number eight at scrum time if they are not the side who had the put in.

Past Meetings and Recent Results

Our guests’ season got off to a slightly better start then their hosts’, their first game of the season seeing the host newly-promoted Macclesfield. A strong start saw the Eeees run up a 15 – 0 lead in the first quarter, only to falter and allow Macc to catch up and take an 18 – 19 lead. It took a last minute Esher penalty in an otherwise barren final quarter for the visitors to snatch a 21 – 19 victory.

As for the history between the two sides, Esher returned to National One for the 2012/13 season, following a spell in the Championship. Blackheath have won all four home games since that time – 24 – 3 in December 2012, 38 – 10 in early 2014, 27 – 13 in February 2015 and 28 – 21 in the game before Christmas last time out. Compare that with one win and three losses in the same period at Molesey Road.

Match Day Details

Kick off at the Well Hall is at 3pm. Ensuring fair play in the middle is James Clarke, ably assisted around the edges by Simon Dodd and Philip Bowers.

Erratic progress. That’s not a description of Club’s performance over the last few games but, rather, what the rain will be doing tomorrow. It will be warmish – up to around 20 degrees – with patchy rain expected across London working its way eastwards during the course of the day. The wind is a 12 mph sou’westerly. That might take an edge off the general feeling of mugginess that’s been around most of the week, although it still looks pretty humid.

If you are cannot make the game 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

A shuffle around after last weekend gives a chance to a few new faces this weekend.

Blackheath First XV V Esher HOME 10 September 2016

14. James DAVIES
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Mark COOKE
10. Simon WHATLING
9. Jack WALSH
1. Aston CROALL
7. Chris WALKER

16. Will ROBERTS
17. Reece CONLON
18. Sam FARMER
19. Chris KNIGHT

Around the Grounds

Second week in and a number of – what pass as – local derbies this weekend. So the reverse of this fixture is the one that will be played immediately before Christmas for those who plan their calendars that far ahead.

Derbies all have potential to be match of the day but a couple that do stick out are Hartpury (2nd) v Plymouth Albion (7th) and Moseley (6th) hosting Coventry (1st). The contrasting styles of Old Albanian (3rd) and Ampthill (4th) could produce a corker as the two clash at Woollams Fields.

Elsewhere, Loughborough Students (16th) have home advantage over Hull Ionians (5th) and Darlington Mowden Park ( 11th) have their first home game as they welcome Blaydon (14th). Rosslyn Park (13th) host newly promoted Cambridge (9th) and Macclesfield (12th) prepare for the visit of not-so-near neighbours Fylde (10th).

Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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