Tom Little’s review of the rest of the opening weekend’s National League One action
Birmingham Moseley (2) 21 21 (2) Ampthill & District attendance 717
Bishops Stortford (5) 49 26 (1) Caldy 630
Blackheath (5) 32 31 (2) Plymouth Albion 563
Darlington M (5) 33 23 (0) Loughborough Students 878
Esher (5) 39 14 (0) Old Elthamians highest 950
Fylde (0) 12 25 (4) Cambridge 874
Hull Ionians (0) 20 63 (5) Coventry Rugby lowest 324
Old Albanian (0) 0 58 (5) Rosslyn Park 427
THERE were no real surprises in week one which saw Coventry Rugby and Rosslyn Park rattle up large away wins while two more fancied teams, Moseley and Ampthill fought draw out a draw. Another of the pre-season favourites, Plymouth Albion lost to a last-minute penalty at Blackheath, who have somewhat gone under the radar with their pre-season signings. There appeared to be a mass pre-season search for playmaking, goalkicking fly-halves with no less than 13 recruited throughout the league, including the unfortunate Jack Lavin, moving from Caldy to Esher, who suffered a serious injury in a practice game.
An impressive home pack display saw Birmingham Moseley go into an early lead over visiting Ampthill & District, an advantage which increased to 21-10 early in the second period before a lack of discipline allowed new fly-half Lawrence Rayner to kick crucial penalties and earn the draw which probably neither side wanted.
The battle between the league newcomers, champions of their respective League 2 divisions, Bishops Stortford and Caldy went the way of the former. The Blues went into an early lead thanks to the former London Scottish No.10 George Cullen and his penalty kicks, followed in the first half by three tries as the home side continued their impressive from form of last season. Three more second half tries followed, giving BS the bonus point, but credit to Caldy who came back late on with two tries to earn a losing bonus point.
It was a close, tense and exciting contest at Well Hall Road whers Blackheath beat a fancied Plymouth Albion side, thanks largely to new recruit, fly-half Joe Tarrant’s last-kick penalty. The lead changed hands eight times, the home side making an excellent start to race into a 19-3 lead before the Albion pack began to impose itself, resulting in penalties kicked by Albion’s new fly-half, Dan Mugford. Albion edged ahead with a few minutes to go before the late drama with Tarrant kicking the winning goal for Blackheath.
At Darlington Mowden Park it was another fly-half, returning Warren Seals who was the star as the home side claimed a bonus point win over Loughborough Students. The home side pack starved the Students of decent possession, allowing DMP to gain a bonus point lead before the intensity dropped off and allowed the visitors back in with two late tries but still short of securing a bonus point.
Esher, who have recruited well, had newly-promoted Old Elthamians as their visitors. Despite a strong-looking side, OE had no real answer to the experience of the home side who denied them useful possession. With Esher’s back row in fine form, the second half saw them take full control with three tries removing any slight chance of a point for OE.
Fylde , after a pre-season of change, went down at home to a Cambridge side whose defensive prowess was somewhat of a contrast to last season. A close game with many unforced errors was only decided late on by a Cambridge try and conversion, which denied the home side even a losing bonus point. Until the late twist the game could have gone either way.
Old Albanian have seen last season’s squad decimated and with a host of newcomers were unable to stem the flow of nine tries conceded to visitors Rosslyn Park who had their four-try bonus point earned after 25 minutes. OA had no answer as they were also nilled in the second half, Park putting down a solid marker for the season.