1st XV Match Preview V Bishops Stortford (H) Sat 21/10/2017 

by Glyn Barlow

This weekend we welcome Bishop’s Stortford for their first visit to Billesley Common and their first fixture against Birmingham Moseley.

It’s probably likely our supporters are fairly unfamiliar with the Hertfordshire club so let’s review a little of their history.

Founded in 1920 the club moved to their current home of Silver Leys in 1928. With the onset of league rugby they started out well with promotion in their first season to London 2 North. The team made steady progress joining National 2 South in 2013 and winning promotion to National One at the end of last season having been crowned champions winning 25 of their 30 fixtures, collecting over 1,000 points on the way.

As part of the preparations for the season the club strengthened its squad with a number of new players. Fly half George Cullen joined from London Scottish, along with hooker Sam James from Bedford, utility back Josh Wright from Saracens Academy and in the back row New Zealander Baxter Wilson. The biggest name signing over the summer must be Samoan International back row / second row Dan Leo who made 39 international appearances for Samoa along with 3 for the Pacific Islands.

This season Bishop’s Stortford made an impressive start to life in National One when they beat Caldy 49-26 and followed it up the next weekend with a 13-19 win over their old National Two South rivals Old Elthamians.

Unfortunately the team then lost to Plymouth Albion 17-36, before getting the show back on the road with a 24-31 win over Rosslyn Park. A 22-41 loss to Ampthill was followed by what may be their most impressive performance to date, even though it was a loss, when they gave Coventry the fright of their lives just being beaten to the draw by an 80th minute penalty that saw the Warwickshire side home 30-27. Last weekend the team held off Hull Ionians to win 35-31, a result that now sees them in seventh place, 3 points ahead of Birmingham Moseley.

Turning our attention to the men in red and black’s season and the roller coaster ride continued last week with the win at Esher. With the last six fixtures alternating between no league points and five league points each week the pessimistic among you may not like the prospects for the next game. Clearly if the team is to break this cycle they need to maintain the attacking approach that yielded six tries (and congratulations to Mark Harrison who equalled the club’s record for tries in a league game with his four. Interestingly one of the two other players to have done this is his teammate this season Callum MacBurnie) while considerably improving their defensive approach. The fact that the team now has the fifth highest tries against tally is a statistic they will be keen to eradicate.

With a solid forward platform to build on you cannot help but think a run of good, consistent, form is not far away. Let’s hope this weekend stops the switchback ride.