Jersey make the trip to one of the world's oldest rugby clubs
this weekend when they play Blackheath in their third outing of
2011/12 in National League One.
More of the history later - and it's impressive - but in the
here and now the Islanders are about to face a side who will be
desperate to register their first win of the current campaign in
what is their first home game.
Successive away games were required by the team known to many
devotees as, simply, 'Club' because of the early start to the
season imposed by the authorities in a bid to squeeze a hefty 30
league games into one season and build in scope for bad weather.
Blackheath's Rectory Field ground is used for cricket and
consequently unavailable for use by 'Club' until this weekend.
With thanks to Blackheath's website and its squadron of writers,
here's the story of the 'Club' season so far.
[Malcolm Thacker 'Left Hand Top Terrace' - August 26th] This
season's Blackheath squad relies as usual on retaining quality
existing players and keeping successful combinations together
wherever possible. However, for the first time in a while
Blackheath seem to have got most of what they wanted in transfers
in the off-season, by strengthening the spine of the team. This
includes more depth at full-back and goal-kicking from Adam
Armstrong, an England Counties No 8 in Tom Stradwick from Henley
and more experience at hooker, where Gavin O'Meara [formerly of
Leinster] returns from Plymouth Albion [after a loan spell at
'Club' in 2009 while on the books of London Welsh].
Add in some useful acquisitions in the backs [coached by former
Wasps' scrum half and England sevens supremo Mike Friday],
including Australian centre Paddy Smith, Richard Bright
(Launceston) and John Coleman (Plymouth Albion) on the wings and
dual registrations from Saracens, including Club-grown England U18
back row Matt Hankin, and the squad looks strong on paper. But this
season more than ever, they will need to gel quickly and deliver
results early on, as there will be no easy ties in this
[Malcolm Thacker - September 2nd] Blackheath, meanwhile, never
quite applied their game plan sufficiently to overcome Rosslyn
Park, at a strangely subdued Priory Lane. The home pack looked more
dynamic in the loose than the visitors, whilst the Club forwards
were on top throughout in the tight phases and the line-out
generally worked well. The visitors scored the try of the match
however, after a typically barrelling break from Dave Allen
ultimately set up Richard Bright for a score on his debut.
Despite the result [a 26-20 defeat for 'Club'], this match was very
close and could have gone either way, there were many positives for
the Club faithful, not least Adam Armstrong's kicking, which kept
Blackheath in the game and, with both range and accuracy, will
force opponents to maintain their discipline in their own half, a
vital weapon in a long winter campaign.
[Graham Cox - September 4th] The concession of a try well into
added time thwarted Blackheath once again as the Club lost out to
Ealing Trailfinders in their first ever league visit to Vallis Way
Coming from behind for a second time in the match, the visitors
mounted a huge spell of pressure on the hosts' goal-line before Ben
Ibrahim crossed with just two minutes remaining for what looked to
be a well-earned draw.
But in the dying moments Trailfinders' full-back Peter Hodgkinson,
who played a part in all three of his side's tries, broke from
defence and former Club centre Sam Wardingley scored to give Ealing
a 26-21 victory.
"We've lost out in two games which could have gone either way
which is deeply frustrating," commented [Performance Director]
"But we must pay credit to Ealing, they look a good all-round
side and played with great gusto."
"For our part, I don't think we're playing badly, but we're far
short of clicking into top gear," he continued.
"But we won't be looking to make wholesale changes. With hard
work and patience the performances and results will come and I know
the boys are really looking forward to being back at Rectory Field
in front of what we're hoping will be a big crowd."
In spite of claims by Guy's Hospital to have been formed in the
1840s, Blackheath is agreed by many to be the oldest
continuously-operating club in England, and the third oldest in the
world after Dublin University and Edinburgh Academy.
Blackheath were one of the 20 founder members of the RFU from
1871 (and one of seven playing today - Richmond, Guy's, Harlequins,
Civil Service, Wellington College and King's College are the
others). In 1881 the club hosted the first ever international
between England and Wales, and two years later began playing at
their current HQ, Rectory Field.
Famous former players include Frederick Stokes, the first ever
captain of England, Scotland's Mike Campbell-Lamerton, the renowned
dual international CB Fry, Mick 'the Munch' Skinner and one of
England's current world Cup party, scrum half Joe Simpson of
Follow this weekend's game...
Those who can't make it to SE London this weekend needn't lose
touch with what's happening at Rectory Field. Options for keeping
tabs on JRFC include:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's 'Sportscene' from 6- 7pm on
Friday, and regular updates on Saturday afternoon
• Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul'
• Match report on Channel 103 at 5.10pm on Saturday
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online.
17 Nov 2022
Old rivals both seek to stretch start-of-season winning run to 10 games