NATIONAL LEAGUE ONE (week 1, Saturday September 3)
Results round-up and review by Tom Little
Ampthill & District 24 15 Rosslyn Park attendance 478
Blaydon 3 35 Old Albanian 210
Coventry Rugby 54 14 Loughborough Students 983
Esher 21 19 Macclesfield 453
Fylde 20 25 Birmingham Moseley 575
Hartpury College 34 0 Blackheath 317
Hull Ionians 16 10 Darlington Mowden Park 262
Plymouth Albion 23 18 Cambridge 688
WELCOME to the first results review of the season, on a day where the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness gave way at times to torrential rain. What impact this had on some of the results from Saturday is open to debate, but with a couple of opening day surprises and better than perhaps expected results from newcomers to the division, this promises to be a most exciting and close contest for the title.
The largest winning score, in front of the biggest crowd in NL1, saw Coventry Rugby overwhelm a under-cooked Loughborough Students after a frenetic and dominant first half which brought five unanswered tries for the home side. The Students’ game became more structured in the second half but Coventry showed enough glimpses to suggest that they are able to play in a number of effective styles.
Two of the pre-season favourites, Hartpury College and Blackheath met with College on top of their game and easing to a large home win. Blackheath, despite pre-season optimism, were unable to score any points. Matters were not helped for “Club” by a couple of yellow cards, but a Hartpury side boosted by the return of Jonas Mikalcius and Luke Eves was totally in command with new recruit Adam Hastings in fine kicking form. A positive start for Hartpury to match their pre-season optimism.
Another surprising result occurred in the north-east as promoted Old Albanian beat hosts Blaydon. Despite the home side having a dominant pack for the first half they were unable to take advantage. As the game went on, excellent defence by OA led to home mistakes as the visitors took control to gain an invaluable bonus-point away win . Fly-half Chris May was in fine kicking form with 15 points in total. On this showing OA will survive but Blaydon could be under some pressure.
There was an excellent home win for Ampthill & District over much-favoured Rosslyn Park . Two giant packs fought it out but with the visitors only having a Plan A of catch and drive, excellent home defence kept them out. This allowed the home side to sneak ahead and eke out a deserved win.
Relegated from the Championship, Birmingham Moseley had an excellent away win at Fylde. It was a close contest throughout the game, but the goal-kicking of Moseley’s new fly-half Elliot Bale proved decisive.
Hull Ionians continued their starting form from last season with a hard-fought win over local rivals Darlington Mowden Park. Demonstrating the benefit of a settled side, Ionians put in a tremendous defensive performance in keeping out their more illustrious neighbours, although it did take a late drop goal to seal it. Once their newcomers have settled in, DMP will start to improve, while Ionians remain a force at home.
Plymouth Albion had the perfect antidote to their pre-season problems with a tight win at home over league newcomers Cambridge. With Albion again having to rebuild their squad, they came across a Cambridge side determined to make a contest of it. Indeed they did, matching Albion in scoring until the home pack took control resulting in a late winning try.
Other league newcomers, Macclesfield almost defied the odds with a close loss away at favoured Esher, which at least gained them a losing bonus point. In a competitive game Macclesfield seemed a far fitter and effective squad than last time they were in this league, matching the home side in scoring three tries. Whether Esher will live up to their pre-season optimism remains to be seen.