BIG MATCH PREVIEW by Peter Woodroofe

Blackheath v Moseley,
National League 2,
at the Rectory Field, Blackheath,
Saturday, 14 January, 3.00pm
Oldest club
Moseley make the sometimes difficult trip to the Rectory Field, Blackheath on Saturday. It’s not only the actual journey to the South east of London that can be difficult, where hold-ups can occur at any moment, but a visit to what many regard as the oldest rugby club in the world is to enter into the very tradition of our sport.
Blackheath was founded in 1858 and was one of the founder members of the Football Association before the soccer and rugby codes became separate, and took part in the creation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. So we have Blackheath to thank for their part in the evolution of our game.
International ground
Rectory Field itself hosted 14 England Internationals between 1883, when England defeated Scotland by one goal to one try, to 1908, when Australia won 9-3, England’s 6th defeat at Rectory Field. England played their first game at Twickenham the following season.
Because of their position in the traditions of the game, Blackheath is know as ‘The Club’ and, arguably, one of the most daunting aspects faced when visiting Blackheath is the crowd support – the shouts in the somewhat aristocratic ‘Skeeles-like’ voices of “Come on Club”, added to the raised voices of excited young ladies that grace the stand.
Early days
In the former amateur days, Moseley, whose original colours of red and black hoops are the same as ‘The Club’s’, did not have a good record at Rectory Field following their first meeting in 1896.
Recent encounters
In recent years, in League rugby, Moseley have had the better of the encounters. The two clubs first met in League rugby in 1991-2, Moseley suffering what was then their usual fate in club games at Rectory Field, losing 31-6.
After winning at home, 23-6, in the next season, when the clubs met each other again, in 1995-6 Moseley gained a rare victory at Rectory Field, 27-9, though Blackheath won at The Reddings in an end-of-season game, 51-36, ‘the Club’ scoring seven tries to Moseley’s four.
In the first season of legitimate professionalism, 1996-7 Moseley lost 28-3 at Rectory Field, a time when it came home to the writer that Blackheath was where the victims of the Plague in London in 1665 were buried. After that defeat, on the journey home from this outpost of London, he did not feel so good himself!
This was Moseley’s last defeat at Rectory Field and, in fact, in any League match since against Blackheath. The overall League record is Moseley have Played 12, Won 9, Lost 3. Points for 287, Points against 222.
Last season and this
On last season’s visit to Rectory Field, Moseley won a closely contested game 29-24, and in the return game at Bournbrook, Moseley won 39-10.
At Billesley, last September, Moseley won 36-6, with tries by Gareth Taylor, Paul Cox, Carl Colvin, Neil Mason and Andy Binns. Ollie Thomas converted four and kicked one penalty. Tyrone Sorour kicked two penalties for ‘the Club’ in the 2nd and 6th minute.
Newcomers to Blackheath this season include3 South African HARVEY BILJON, formerly of London Wasps, who has joined the club as Director of Rugby / Player, replacing CHRIS KIBBLE, another South African, winger BURGER SANDENBURGH, former England international winger (3 caps) and England 7s cap PAUL SAMPSON, fly-half TYRONE SOROUR, from Vale of Lune, and centre WILL WIGRAM.
Others who have joined late in the season are fly-half South African A.J. DELPORT and centre FRANKIE NEALE.
Sorour has reverted to centre, where he scored two tries in the 38-22 win against Henley Hawks in the last game before Christmas, where Delport, who has taken over kicking duties from Sorour, kicked two conversions and two penalty goals.
Injuries have plagued Blackheath in the first part of this season, 44 players having represented the 1st XV. Lying 11th, two points above the relegation zone, they have 23 points, with wins at home against Halifax, Harrogate and Henley and an away win at Orrell.
Last week, Halifax gained revenge, winning the return match at Ovenden Park 27-24, including the bonus point for scoring four tries. Blackheath also won a bonus point for losing by less than seven points, which brought their total of bonus points to seven. The aforementioned A.J. DELPORT contributed 15 points to Blackheath’s score, taking his points total to 35 in four games since making his debut for ‘the Club’ on 3 December. Their leading points scorer to date is Tyrone Sorour with 47.
Fine win
Moseley’s 41-5 win over Stourbridge at Billesley last week was one of their best performances of the season. Playing an all-round game in wintry conditions, the handling of both forwards and backs was outstanding.
Young centre ANDY REAY, on loan from Bristol, made an extremely promising debut, scoring a well-taken try and contributing clever touches to the moves of the backs, augmented by the return of the experienced ANDY BINNS, who also scored a try.
Focus needed
One can’t help thinking that Moseley’s visit to the Rectory Field is a potential ‘banana skin’ to their promotion challenge.
After the glut of injuries sustained in the first half of the season, Blackheath are rebuilding and benefiting from the return of their experienced players, including the former Wasps winger SHANE ROISER, scrum-half HARVEY BILJON, who did not play in the match at Billesley, and A.J. DELPORT. They will provide much stronger opposition than earlier in the season, especially on their home ground.
Much at stake
Last season, the game at Rectory Field was very closely contested, with Moseley just winning. A confident Moseley, continuing the good form they showed last week, should win, but, with the pressures of achieving promotion building and Blackheath endeavouring to increase their points lead over 12th placed Halifax, who are away at Waterloo, they cannot afford to lose ground in what has become a two-from-three clubs promotion struggle. Esher are at home to Henley Hawks.
All this adds spice to the game, an important one for Moseley and their supporters.
PS - Cider Social at Blackheath
If you’re planning to travel to Blackheath this Saturday there is every reason to stay a while after the match! There will be a cider social after the match ‘kicking off’ from 7:30pm in the Barbarians bar at Blackheath. £10 gets you entrance to a variety of the West-Country's favourite product: cider. Enjoy!
PPS -Directions to the Ground
Directions to the ground can be found on the Blackheath website

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