The Big Match: Esher v Blackheath

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by Nick Sullivan

A strong early performance, giving way to a lacklustre response and a Coventry revival was the story of last weekend, leaving the Club faithful to mull over a disappointing 20-all draw.

Hoping for better things time around, Blackheath hop on the bus to Hersham this weekend as they travel around London and into North Surrey to Molesey Road, the home of Esher (7th). The Eees, as they are known locally, have had a decent season, although probably disappointing by their own standards. Patchy form in places hasn’t helped their cause, although they are one of only two sides (the other being Plymouth) who have beaten both Richmond and Hartpury this season. Although both opponents have returned the favour with one victory over the Surrey side.

Blackheath, then, are hoping to put the Cov result behind them and put in a good showing for their travelling fans in what is likely to be a tough local derby.

Previous Meetings and Recent Results

Since Esher returned to National One from the Championship for the 2012/13 season, results between the two sides have a nice neat split which Blackheath hope to upset this weekend. The home side wins. At Molesey Road, Esher won 33 – 28 in September 2012, 28 – 20 the following October and 24 – 18 in November 2014. By contrast, Blackheath have won 24 – 3, 38 – 10 and 27 – 23 in the corresponding games at Rectory Field. This season, Club won a close fought match 28 – 21 on the weekend before Christmas.

More recently, our hosts’ form has been patchy. On 2 April, they lost 31 (3T) – 24 (4) away at struggling Cinderford. The following weekend, they trounced Henley 52 (8) – 7 (1) in a home fixture. Last weekend, Eees took too long to get into their stride away at Darlington Mowden Park. Despite a strong performance for three quarters of the games, Esher were never really able to recover from conceding 17 points in as many minutes in the opening period. A strong fight back, but ultimately nothing to show as they fell 27 (3T) – 13 (2T) to the County Durham side.

Match Day Details

Kick off at Molesey Road (KT12 3PF) is at 3pm.

Ensuring fair play this weekend is Matt Turvey, ably assisted around the edges by Stephen Light and Philip Bowers.

And the weather. Spring is slowly showing its face. Any overnight rain should clear leaving Saturday cloudy with some sunny spells. A 10 mph north wind might put a chill on things but otherwise the temperature will be around 10 degrees.

If you are not travelling to Surrey on Saturday, 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 Esher AWAY 23 April 2016

15. Dan HAMILTON
14. Geoff GRIFFITHS
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Leo FIELDING
11. Jake LLOYD
10. Freddie GABBITASS
9. Jack WALSH
1. Aston CROALL
2. Harry FRY
3. Terry READ
4. Devin MONTGOMERY
5. Shaun ENGLISH
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Dave ALLEN
8. Tom STRADWICK

16. Scott WRIGHT
17. Kieron SCUTT
18. Gregor GILLANDERS
19. Sam EYDMANN
20. Simon WHATLING

Around the Grounds

Congratulations to Richmond, whose victory over 2nd placed Hartpury College last weekend secured them the league title. No doubt hoping to celebrate in front a home crowd, this weekend it’s back to the grind (or will they turn on the champagne?) with a local derby against Rosslyn Park (8th).

Hartpury College (2nd) will look to cement their position when they travel southwest to Plymouth Albion (5th), whose off the field difficulties do not appear to be impacting their playing performance. Sandwiched between those sides, Ampthill (3rd) are travelling to Club’s opponents from last weekend, Coventry (9th).

A feisty derby match awaits in the northeast as now-safe Blaydon (11th) welcome Darlington Mowden Park (6th) to Crow Trees. Two sides that also claimed survival last weekend meet in the East Riding as Hull Ionians (12th) have a home tie against Loughborough Students (13th).

And then to the fond farewells…Wharefdale (14th), ever present at Level Three since formation of the current National League system in 2000/01 have finally succumbed to relegation pressure. This weekend they hope to give their travelling support some cheer as they cross the Pennines to face Fylde (10th) at The Woodlands. Finally, goodbyes also to Cinderford (15th) who take on Henley Hawks (16th) in Gloucestershire.

Looking to the other leagues, Moseley’s losing bonus point away at Bristol last weekend was not enough to save them relegation after fellow strugglers Ealing defeated Jersey to secure their own safety. The Birmingham based side join us next season.

Macclesfield are confirmed as champions of National Two North and only a mathematical aberration will prevent Sedgley Park from claiming the runners-up spot. Two South is now a two horse race with Cambridge 5 points ahead of Old Albanian, both with two games to play.

Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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