Having run up almost 100 points in their last two fixtures (against just seven conceded), league leaders Hartpury will be expecting a rather different sort of contest when they travel to south-east London this weekend.
Blackheath lie second in National One, separated from Saturday’s visitors by just three points. The margin arises purely from bonus point differential, both clubs sharing the identical record of having won seven and lost one of their eight matches so far.
In compiling their 30 points so far, Blackheath have included an impressive 31-18 away win at many pundit’s promotion favourites, Rosslyn Park, and a gritty 15-10 victory, also away from home, at early season leaders Ampthill.
Like Hartpury, Blackheath sustained their only loss up North on the opening day of the season, losing at Blaydon whilst the College stuttered at Hull.
Reports indicate that Blackheath have a strong pack of forwards (surely a pre-requisite for beating both Park and Ampthill) and open-side Dave Allen has already collected six league tries this season. The back division are currently marshalled by new outside half and place-kicker, Freddie Gabbitass. The latter should be known to a few of the Hartpury lads, who will have been in England Student squads with him and played against him in BUCS matches against Bath and Exeter, both of which he attended.
Honours were shared last season with the home team winning on both occasions. Hartpury, on their inaugural visit to the Rectory Field, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when they were overhauled by a more streetwise Blackheath in the closing minutes, whilst the home match (pictured, Leonard and Safe close down Dave Allen) was a fairly dour affair brightened by a trademark Mat Protheroe try – i.e. run in from somewhere near the half-way line.
Although nothing is won or lost in November, Saturday’s game represents Hartpury’s biggest test of the season so far – you can read the thoughts of DoR Alan Martinovic here:
Although the clash in SE3 is very much the League One ‘match of the day’, there are some interesting match-ups elsewhere. Our neighbours Cinderford will consider their game with Ionians as a ‘must win’ while, for similar reasons, Blaydon will be hoping to exploit home advantage against inconsistent Fylde.
Esher will be looking to continue their bright start against under-performing Coventry, and Wharfedale, having come close to over-turning Blackheath on their last visit to the capital, might fancy their chances of causing an upset at Rosslyn Park.