League leaders Coventry head into Round Seven planning on maintaining their 100 per cent record when they head to bottom of the table Fylde on Saturday.
Rowland Winter’s men have performed superbly in the opening weeks of the season and went top of the table last weekend thanks to victory over Bishop’s Stortford as well as Darlington Mowden Park’s defeat to Old Albanian.
The Midlands side now travel to Lancashire to face Fylde aiming to maintain their perfect start to the campaign.
Below the table toppers, second placed Plymouth Albion go to Caldy, DMP host an in-form Old Elthamians side, Ampthill are away at Loughborough Students and James Shanahan comes up against his former employers as Blackheath take on Old Albanian.
Elsewhere, Hull Ionians will be hoping to build on their first win of the season when they visit Bishop’s Stortford, while Cambridge are at home to Rosslyn Park and Esher face Birmingham Moseley.
Fylde v Coventry
After six rounds of rugby, Coventry finally restored their place at the summit of National One last weekend. Their narrow victory over Bishop’s Stortford saw them take advantage of Darlington Mowden Park’s defeat to Old Albanian which leaves Rowland Winter’s side three points clear at the top of the division after a 100 per cent start to the season. In fact, Cov have now won their last 14 matches – a run which stretches back to February – and the early league leaders will be favourites to extend that record when they travel to Fylde tomorrow.
Fylde secured their first win of the season at the end of September which was a much needed boost following a tough start to the campaign for Warren Spragg’s men. However, the Lancashire outfit could not build on their victory over Rosslyn Park as they slipped to a defeat away at Ampthill & District in Round Six and things don’t get much easier for Fylde this weekend. The division’s bottom club have two key games coming up after this against Hull Ionians and Birmingham Moseley, but they will be fully focused on the task in hand tomorrow. Fylde beat Coventry in this corresponding fixture last term and a repeat of that outcome would be the result of the season so far.
Caldy v Plymouth Albion
Plymouth Albion are starting to hit their stride. Kieran Hallet’s men have been excellent after their opening day defeat against Blackheath and they head to Caldy this weekend on the back of five straight wins. Albion moved up to second last Saturday following Darlington’s loss at Old Albanian and they are now just three points behind leaders Coventry. Plymouth will be the first to admit that their latest victory over Cambridge wasn’t their best performance of the season so they’ll be hoping for a much improved display in Round Seven.
However, that is easier said than done against a Caldy side who have been excellent at home over the last 13 months. The newly promoted outfit have won 15 of their last 17 games at Paton Field, but this season, they have a 50 per cent record heading into this clash with Plymouth Albion. However, more importantly for Simon Verbicaks’ men is the three matches losing streak which they are currently on so Caldy will be desperate to put a halt to that run this weekend.
Darlington Mowden Park v Old Elthamians
Darlington Mowden Park’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end last weekend as they were frustrated and edged out by Old Albanian at Woollams. Danny Brown’s men were beaten 33-31 and now it is key for DMP to regather themselves and focus on returning to winning ways as soon as possible. The northeast side finished 10th last term so they are certainly making progress and even though one defeat isn’t a blow to Darlington’s season, they will be itching to secure a positive result when Old Elthamians visit the Northern Echo Arena tomorrow.
The hosts may have been hoping to take on a side out of form this weekend, but they are welcoming a team that is at the opposite end to the spectrum. New boys Old Elthamians will be in a buoyant mood when they head to Darlington tomorrow having won their last four matches. Gavin Lach’s men have been superb over the last month and they deserve to be lying sixth in the table in their first ever season at this level. Now, their biggest test awaits this weekend as they aim to extend their excellent run of form.
Blackheath v Old Albanian
Last season, Blackheath head coach James Shanahan was in the opposite dugout. Shanahan guided Old Albanian to a very credible ninth place finish following promotion from National Two South in 2016, but ended his long spell at Woollams to take on a new challenge with ‘Club’. His time at Well Hall has got off to an excellent start as the London-based side have won five matches this term and currently occupy fourth spot in the division. Their only defeat has come against league leaders Coventry, but Shanahan will fancy adding to their positive start to the campaign against his former club tomorrow.
However, he will know better than most that you cannot write off this Old Albanian side. If you needed evidence, look no further than last weekend. The Hertfordshire side had won just once all season and were facing an unbeaten Darlington Mowden Park outfit, but the form book was thrown out of the window as OAs secured their second win in three weeks. It was always going to be tough for Gavin Hogg to build on Shanahan’s work, but OAs are now starting to show their qualities. A win at Well Hall this weekend would certainly suggest that Old Albanian are firmly on the up.
Loughborough Students v Ampthill and District
Ampthill and District visit the Midlands this weekend aiming to continue their good form. After a slow start to the season, the A’s now find themselves fifth in the table following a run of three straight victories. The men from Dillingham Park have looked back to their best in recent weeks – having racked up an average of just over 40 points in their last three games – and they will be eager to maintain their clinical streak as they look to keep pace with the early front-runners.
In contrast, Loughborough Students are craving a victory. They welcome Ampthill to Epinal Way bottom of the form guide having lost their last four matches. Students’ only win this season came in Round Two against Cambridge, but they are still searching for their first home triumph. In fact, Loughborough have won just one of their last 10 league games so new Director of Rugby Alan Buzza will be hoping to stop to the rot this weekend.
Bishop’s Stortford v Hull Ionians
Despite suffering a defeat away at Coventry last weekend, Bishop’s Stortford have to be delighted with their season so far. Andy Long’s side occupy seventh in the table following promotion from National Two South in May and they are definitely showing that they can compete at this level. This point was emphasised last weekend in the Midlands where they took unbeaten Coventry all the way, but narrowly missed out on a share of the points. Stortford actually come into this game against Hull Ionians on the back of three straight defeats, but if they put in a performance like they did last weekend, they should get a result at Silver Leys tomorrow.
Stortford may well have been heavy favourites for this Round Seven clash last weekend, but Hull Ionians will head south this Saturday in a completely different frame of mind. The I’s had lost all five of their games this term and were sat bottom of the division, but the men from Brantingham Park were given a shot in the arm six days ago as they clinched their first win of the campaign against Esher. Ionians are now off the foot of the table and head to Hertfordshire with a bit of confidence that they can get a result from their trip south
Cambridge v Rosslyn Park
Cambridge host Rosslyn Park this weekend looking to build on a positive display against Plymouth Albion. Ross Stewart’s side performed admirably at Brickfields last Saturday as they restricted Albion to just three tries whilst also claiming a try bonus-point for themselves. Not many teams put up such a solid defensive effort as the Blood and Sand did six days ago, but their attention will now be on the offensive side of the game as they aim to pick up their third win of the season this Saturday.
The hosts are a side that seem to be continually improving as the weeks pass by and Rosslyn Park will be hoping the same sort of progress will apply to them. After four straight defeats, Park arrested that run last Saturday as they took advantage of Loughborough Students’ ill-discipline to claim victory at the Rock. Now, the key for Kieran Power and his side is to build on a positive result. They weren’t able to do it after a thrashing of Old Albanian on the opening day, but they will be eager to put that right this time around.
Esher v Birmingham Moseley
Esher would have been disappointed after Round Six. Following a tough month which included defeats against three of the top five sides in the division, their fixture against Hull Ionians provided the perfect opportunity for the Surrey-based side to begin October with a positive result. However, after a flying start, they were pegged back and ultimately were defeated by a spited I’s side and now Esher prepare to host Birmingham Moseley on the back of just one win from their last five matches.
Esher have won twice this season – with both victories coming at home – and that is where they are usually at their most dangerous. 11 of their last 15 league wins have come on their own patch so Birmingham Moseley will have to be at their best this Saturday. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Richard Protherough’s men last weekend. They were completely outplayed by Blackheath in a 55-14 loss and it leaves Moseley a place above Esher, but level on points with their opponents after six rounds. Both of these sides will want to dispel their inconsistencies, and victory this weekend would be a good way to achieve that aim.
National League 1 2017/18 - Points Table
National League 1 2016/17 - Leading Points-Scorers
National League 1 2016/17 - Leading Try-Scorers