Richmond and Rams collide at summit of National One

Rams RFC left it late to secure a fourth successive win
©Paul Clark

The first weekend of October sees the top two sides in National One meet in the capital as Richmond face Rams RFC.

Many followers of National One may have expected to see Richmond towards the right end of the division at this early stage of the season and four straight wins means Steve Hill’s side do sit on top of the pile.

However Rams, who are competing in National One for the first time in their history, have been the surprise package thus far and they sit in second spot ahead of their visit to the Athletic Ground in Round Five.

Third placed Birmingham Moseley may have one eye on proceedings in London when they host Rotherham Titans while both Cinderford and Rosslyn Park will be eager to respond to their first losses of the campaign when they travel to Darlington Mowden Park and Sale FC, respectively.

Elsewhere, Blackheath entertain bottom of the table Hull Ionians, Old Elthamians go to Cambridge, Chinnor take on Bishop’s Stortford and Plymouth Albion welcome Canterbury to Brickfields.

Richmond v Rams

Victory at Hull Ionians last time out secured Richmond’s fourth successive win as Steve Hill’s side continued their perfect start to the National One season. The club relegated from the Championship last term will be desperate to return to the second tier where they feel they rightly belong, but this weekend will provide a stern test of their credentials.

Three years ago, Rams finished eighth in National Two South whilst Richmond were earning promotion to the Championship, but now both teams are on a level playing field. The sides have also picked up the same amount of victories and points (18) with the newly-promoted Rams surprising many in their debut season in the third tier. They were also named England Rugby’s Team of the Month for September and they could begin October by moving to the summit of National One.

Birmingham Moseley v Rotherham Titans

Birmingham Moseley concluded September by claiming an excellent victory over Cinderford and overall, it was a very positive opening month for Adam Balding’s side. Last season, the Midlands club had to wait until November to secure three wins but the new-look Moseley have already achieved that feat after four rounds of this campaign.

They currently occupy third spot in the table and Moseley welcome Rotherham Titans to Billesley Common to kick off October. The Yorkshire club were able to secure back-to-back home wins last weekend as they defeated Cambridge but now Mike Jenkinson and his side will be keen to secure their first win on the road since March when they visit the Midlands in Round Five.

Darlington Mowden Park v Cinderford

Paul Morris and Cinderford will be hoping to bounce back this weekend after falling to their first defeat of the campaign in Round Four. They were unable to contain Birmingham Moseley’s Morgan Dawes as the flanker scored a hat-trick at Dockham Road, but the Foresters will be eager for a reaction when they travel to Darlington Mowden Park on Saturday.

The hosts have not won at the Northern Echo Arena so far this season as Danny Brown’s men have found their success on the road. Consecutive away wins over Hull Ionians and Bishop’s Stortford have kept DMP in touch with the early frontrunners so a first home triumph of the campaign would represent a positive opening five matches for the North-East club.

Sale FC v Rosslyn Park

Rosslyn Park’s unbeaten start to the National One season came to a disappointing end last Saturday as they lost to Blackheath at home. Kieran Power said his side were their ‘own worst enemies’ but, they would have been keen not to dwell on their first loss of the term and now they will be focused on returning to winning ways when they travel to Sale FC.

But, the home side on Saturday come into this clash in a much better place. Successive defeats to begin the season was the worst possible start for Sale FC, but they have reacted superbly by beating Old Elthamians and Canterbury to spark their campaign into life. Jonathan Keep’s side now sit ninth in the division and a hat-trick of wins for the first time since April 2018 would certainly please the CorpAcq Stadium faithful.

Blackheath v Hull Ionians

The final weekend of September saw Blackheath produce arguably their best performance of the campaign. ‘Club’ celebrated an excellent win over Rosslyn Park -the first side to beat Park at the Rock since January - and now James Shanahan’s men will be seeking their third victory of the campaign when they entertain Hull Ionians.

Blackheath will be heavy favourites at Well Hall on Saturday as the I’s arrive in the capital having lost all four of their matches this term. Added to this, the Yorkshire club are also searching for their first points of the season and they are already 10 points adrift of the safety positions. Yes, it is still extremely early days but Ionians will be itching to get their campaign up and running as soon as possible.

Cambridge v Old Elthamians

Old Elthamians may have entered this season full of belief after an excellent second-placed finish last term. Gavin Lach’s side begun the 2019/20 campaign with a win over Canterbury, but back-to-back defeats against Rosslyn Park and Sale FC was not the start the Mottingham club may have envisaged.

However, OEs bounced back in Round Four as they battled past Plymouth Albion and next up, they visit Cambridge. The hosts on Saturday would have been rueing some ill-discipline against Rotherham Titans last weekend as a yellow-card seemingly cost them their second victory of the campaign. Nevertheless, the Blood and Sand would have dusted themselves down this week as they aim for their first home triumph of the season.

Chinnor v Bishop’s Stortford

Matt Williams said his side were ‘deflated’ for the first time this season after their heart-breaking loss to Rams RFC last time out. Chinnor had led 21-15 with five minutes remaining, but fell to a dramatic defeat in Berkshire so the Black and Whites will be desperate for a response at Kingsey Road this weekend.

Bishop’s Stortford arrive in Oxfordshire level on points with Chinnor and they also suffered a narrow loss in Round Four. Andy Long’s side have been involved in some tight matches already this term and last Saturday’s clash with Darlington Mowden Park was no different. The men from Silver Leys have picked up the joint-highest amount of bonus-points this term, but now they will want to turn their near misses into a second victory of the season.

Plymouth Albion v Canterbury

Ben Gulliver revealed he was proud of his team after their defeat against Old Elthamians as Plymouth Albion continue to gel as a side as they enter October. The men from Brickfields sit just one point above the relegation places at this early stage of the season so a home victory over Canterbury would be an ideal way to begin the second month of the campaign.

The visitors to Devon on Saturday are one of the current clubs who occupy a spot in the bottom three as things stand and Canterbury are still looking for their first victory since promotion from National Two South. After a tough start to the season, Andy Pratt’s side would have been disappointed with their showing against Sale FC last time out, so the City Men will be hoping to get off the mark this weekend.

2019-20 National League 1 Points Table