Teams aiming to build on positive starts in National One

Coventry aiming high after opening day win
©Nick Meredith

It is always a great feeling to kick off a new season with a victory. That is the priority for every side regardless of what division you are in.

In National One, teams such as Rosslyn Park, Coventry and Esher duly saw off their opening day opponents but they know the hard work has just begun.

Round Two in this division does present a chance for the sides that triumphed last weekend to really show what they are about this term and back to back wins do give any club a boost as they look to shape the rest of their campaign.

Early league leaders Rosslyn Park have to negotiate a tough London derby against Blackheath while second place Coventry are involved in an all Midlands affair against Birmingham Moseley.

Elsewhere, Plymouth Albion will be looking to bounce back at home to Esher, Darlington Mowden Park travel to Hull Ionians and old foes reunite as Old Elthamians host Bishop’s Stortford. Other fixtures this weekend see Cambridge welcome Loughborough Students to Volac Park, Ampthill and District up against Old Albanian and it is an all north-west affair as Caldy take on Fylde.

Rosslyn Park v Blackheath

It was the perfect start to the season for Rosslyn Park. An away trip, nine tries scored and no points conceded. They completely outplayed Old Albanian at Woolams last Saturday and now they return to the Rock to try and build on that brilliant result. Kieran Power’s side won 10 of their 15 matches on home soil last term and one of those victories came against their upcoming opponents, Blackheath.

Club were beaten 28-3 back in October of last year, but the London-based side will be confident of gaining a result this Saturday. James Shanahan’s reign as Head Coach got off to a wonderful start as Blackheath edged out Plymouth Albion last weekend and now they prepare for another test. Blackheath have not won away from home for nine months, but if they were to win at the Rock on Saturday in this London derby, then that would really lay down a marker to the rest of the division.

Coventry v Birmingham Moseley

Like the aforementioned Rosslyn Park, Coventry also got off to a flyer last weekend. A comprehensive 63-20 victory away from home over Hull Ionians highlighted that Rowland Winter’s side were not suffering from any early season rust. In fact, Cov have now won their last nine league matches as they begin their home campaign against fellow Midlands side Birmingham Moseley tomorrow. Coventry were pretty much faultless on their own patch last season winning 14 of their 15 matches and they will be hoping that continues into this campaign.

Birmingham Moseley began their new era under the stewardship of Richard Protherough and Simon Cross with a hard fought draw at home to Ampthill & District. Both of those sides finished in the top five last season and this weekend poses another tough challenge for the men from Billesley Common. Moseley finished just three points behind Coventry last season and a result this Saturday would signify a positive start for the Midlands outfit.

Plymouth Albion v Esher

Plymouth Albion finished in second place last season behind runaway leaders Hartpury College and before the start of this campaign, Kieran Hallet’s side would’ve known that taking that next step wouldn’t be easy. That statement certainly proved to be true last weekend as Albion suffered a narrow defeat at Blackheath and the men from Brickfields will be itching for a response this Saturday. Last year, Plymouth won 14 games on their own turf and they are actually unbeaten at home since December.

With that in mind, it may seem like a daunting prospect for visiting side Esher this weekend, but the men from Surrey will bounce into Brickfields tomorrow. A comfortable win over newly promoted side Old Elthamians was the perfect start to the new season and Esher come into this fixture having won their last six league matches. Added to that, they are unbeaten in four games on the road so despite this game pointing towards an Albion win on paper, expect a much closer contest in the southwest on Saturday.

Old Elthamians v Bishop’s Stortford

As we have just mentioned, Old Elthamians’ first game at this level following promotion from National Two South ended in defeat, but Gavin Lach’s men will certainly have taken a few positives from their maiden National One fixture. OEs clinched their place in this division via the play-off last May, but may feel quietly confident about gaining a result this weekend. 

They welcome Bishop’s Stortford to College Meadow who were promoted alongside OEs last season. Stortford stormed to the National Two South crown, but they only finished seven points ahead of their hosts for this weekend so OEs may fancy their chances of clinching their first ever victory at this level. However, Stortford have lost just 1 of their last 13 league matches- a run which started with a victory away at OEs back in January - and they’ll be hoping to continue that excellent sequence of results this Saturday as they go in search of back to back victories.

Hull Ionians v Darlington Mowden Park

After escaping relegation in dramatic fashion last season, the last thing Hull Ionians would have wanted was to begin this campaign on the back foot. However, the Yorkshire side slipped to a humbling defeat at home to Coventry, but they have the chance to make amends at Brantingham Park this Saturday when they welcome Darlington Mowden Park. Before that loss to Cov, the I’s had won four matches on the spin so Alex Crockett’s men will be hoping to recapture that sort of form this weekend.

DMP take the relatively short journey to East Yorkshire tomorrow looking to build upon their opening day victory against Loughborough Students. The northeast side won 33-23 last Saturday and are now back on their travels where they won five times last term. However, they did lose this corresponding fixture against Hull Ionians 16-10 and if they have any ambitions of finishing inside the top eight this term, this is a game that they really ought to be winning.

Cambridge v Loughborough Students

We might only be one game into the new season, but Cambridge’s win over Fylde last weekend could prove pivotal come the end of the campaign. Last year, the Blood and Sand finished on the cusp of the relegation zone so an early victory against a side that also struggled last term will be a big boost to Ross Stewart’s side. Their next task is their first home game of the season against Loughborough Students who they finished  eight points behind in 2016/17 and back to back triumphs would be the ideal beginning for the men from Volac Park.

Loughborough Students certainly made strides last season and as they have done in previous years, they will be eager to continue improving in National One. Life without Dave Morris didn’t begin positively for the Midlands side as they were edged out by Darlington Mowden Park last Saturday, but they have another opportunity to end a run of just one win in 11 league matches.

Ampthill and District v Old Albanian

Ampthill and District have certainly cemented themselves as one of the stronger sides in this division since their promotion to National One in 2015 and there may be murmurs around Dillingham Park of the word ‘promotion.’ They haven’t been miles off in recent seasons and a draw away at Birmingham Moseley is not the worst result to begin a new campaign. The A’s have the chance to open their account with a victory over Old Albanian as they aim to pick up their 13th home win from their last16 games this Saturday.

If a heavy defeat to Rosslyn Park wasn’t enough for Old Albanian, a trip to Bedfordshire is certainly not the ideal fixture to have this weekend for the Herefordshire side after such a tough start to the season. Gavin Hogg’s men just couldn’t click into gear in their 58-0 defeat last Saturday, but he will be wiping the slate clean this Saturday as he and his new squad look to upset the odds and get their season up and running.

Caldy v Fylde

Following 28 wins last term, Caldy would not have been used to tasting a losing feeling when they suffered an opening day defeat to Bishop’s Stortford last weekend. However, the Wirral side knew they would be in for a difficult season in their first ever year in National One and they will be hoping to gain their maiden victory in this division when they welcome Fylde to Paton Fields tomorrow.

Simon Verbickas’ men have only lost five times in their last 30 fixtures on home soil while their opponents Fylde have won on just five occasions in the same amount of matches on the road. The Lancashire outfit struggled last season and flirted with relegation at times, but managed to steer clear of the drop due to their good home form. Having won just once on the road in 2016/17, they’ll be keen to put that right this weekend as they go in search of their first win of the campaign.

 

National League 1 2017/18 - Points Table

 
 

National League 1 2016/17 - Leading Points-Scorers

 

National League 1 2016/17 - Leading Try-Scorers