by Nick Sullivan
The rain’s stopped, the temperature is pushing up and the Well Hall pitch looks glorious as the late winter sun gleams on its surface…
…and to cap all that, Blackheath have found some of their old form in the last few weeks. Although not without a hiccup in County Durham last weekend. Some long and decent patches of their old form have been evident in the recent past, although punctuated by sloppy play in places, and the boys will be keen to put together 80 minutes of the good stuff for the home fans.
And what better time to start than tomorrow – as the Southeast London mob welcome old friends Esher (11th) to Well Hall. Blackheath will be looking to avenge the defeat at Molesey Road back in October, which marked the start of the pre-Christmas slump in form.
National One as at Friday 16 February 2018
|2||Darlington Mowden Park||20||16||1||3||582||382||200||15||2||0||83|
|3||Ampthill and District||22||12||4||6||570||423||147||12||4||0||72|
Past Meetings and Recent Results
This is the twentieth league meeting between the two sides since the millennium. The record is remarkably close; Esher with ten wins to Blackheath’s nine. Home advantage usually counts – Eees 8 home wins, 2 losses, Club 7 home wins, 2 losses.
The men from Southeast London had the pleasure of taking both games last season – 13 – 6 at Well Hall in early September 2016, followed by a 11 – 30 away win shortly before Christmas of the same year. On the other hand, the Molesey Road outfit won this season’s reverse fixture 28 – 19 at the end of October, a match which also marked the beginning of Blackheath’s drop in form.
In terms of our guests’ more recent form, they are one match behind us in the fixture list – in other words, Blackheath’s opponents one week will be Esher’s the next. Over their last three, Eees welcomed Hull Ionians to North Surrey on 27 January, winning 38 (5) – 27 (4) (Blackheath had lost 32 – 21 away at Hull the week before). The following week they travelled to the West Midlands and returned with two points from a 20-all draw with Moseley (Blackheath had won 20 – 12 at home the week before) and, most recently, back on home turf they beat Old Albanian 24 (4) – 8 (1) last weekend compared to Club’s 6 – 32 away win the prior weekend).
Whether there is actually anything to be gained by comparing the scores…who knows.
Match Day Details
Kick off at Well Hall is 3pm. The man in the middle is James Clarke, ably assisted by Christopher Bartlett and Jeffrey Highcock.
Everything is looking a little bit brighter on the weather front. The light cloud and slight milder temperatures we have seen for the last couple of days look set to continue into Saturday. Expect some light cloud, spells of sunshine and temperature creeping up to 9 or 10 degrees accompanied by a gentle westerly 7/8mph breeze.
If you cannot make Well Hall 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 5.00 pm.
Blackheath First XV V Esher HOME 17 February 2018
|13||Markus BURCHAM (Capt)|
Around the Grounds
After 21 games last season, Hartpury sat top of the league on 104 points, 28 points ahead of second placed Ampthill. Against that yardstick, Coventry’s 16 point lead over nearest rivals DMP, who also have a game in hand, pales somewhat. Nonetheless, they remain odds-on favourites to take the title and deservedly so after such a strong season to date. The one injection or nervousness is, perhaps, that they must still play DMP twice and the latter have that sneaky game in hand. Whilst it’s hard to see them slipping up in both games, it does add a hint of excitement to proceedings.
The first of the DMP clashes is in Darlington next weekend but prior to that, Coventry (1st) must overcome the hurdle of Cambridge (10th) tomorrow, albeit the leaders have home advantage. DMP (2nd), on the other hand, have a trickier ask as they have the monster 375 mile journey Southwest to meet Plymouth Albion (4th). Although looking a little off colour in the last few weeks, Albion at home are a tough ask and it’s a long way to go…unless DMP have left already.
Improving Caldy (9th) also hit the road and will have noticed that their hosts Ampthill (3rd) have stuttered in their last couple, but the Bedfordshire probably start as punters’ favourites to take the points. A London derby next up, as Old Elthamians (6th) hope to take advantage of any slip up at Well Hall and leapfrog Blackheath as they travel round the South Circ to the Rock to face curate’s egg Rosslyn Park (12th). The Old Boys must be favourites but it is not beyond Park to spring a surprise.
Bishop’s Stortford (7th) will want to cement 7th place as they make the short 30 mile hop to the Woollams’ home of Old Albanian. If they don’t, then hot on their heels Moseley (8th) may very well take 5 points from the visit of bottom placed Fylde (16th).
Finally, in an important battle at the wrong end of the table and what could be the most difficult game to call, Hull Ionians (14th) welcome Loughborough Students (13th) to Brantingham Park.
Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, in that same week’s table last season, Blackheath were 5th, on 65 points.
Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!