National One is very much back and the drama and excitement still remains.
Any supporter or follower of this division over the first two weeks of this season would have recognised that this league is delivering on all fronts once again.
We have had bucket loads tries, some great attacking rugby plus some resilient defence displays and we have not even finished the first month of the campaign.
And in Round Three, we have the added spice of Friday Lights as Birmingham Moseley host Hull Ionians this evening.
We are set for another enthralling weekend of level three rugby with Coventry, Darlington Mowden Park, Bishop’s Stortford and Blackheath all aiming to continue their perfect starts while something has got to give in Lancashire as Fylde host Old Elthamians. Elsewhere, Caldy travel to Lougborough Students and Esher welcome Rosslyn Park.
Birmingham Moseley v Hull Ionians
After four wins from their last five games at the end of the 2016/17 season, Hull Ionians’ new campaign has not begun well. The I’s have conceded 90 points in their first two outings as they fell to defeats against Coventry and Darlington Mowden Park and they will now be aiming to avoid three straight losses.
It is Friday night lights this week at Billesley Common and the home supporters will be hoping that Birmingham Moseley can clinch their first win of this term. After a draw on the opening day against Ampthill and District, Richard Protherough’s side were humbled in Round Two against Coventry, but have the opportunity to make amends this weekend when Hull Ionians visit the Midlands.
Old Albanian v Coventry
Two teams in Coventry have started their domestic campaigns on fire. Wasps have flown out of the blocks racking up 74 points in their first two games of the season and just 5 miles down the road, Coventry Rugby Club have also started quickly. Rowland Winter’s men have scored 113 points this month and will be aiming for three straight wins when they travel to Old Albanian tomorrow.
The last thing the hosts needed was the visit of the current league leaders. Gavin Hogg’s tenure at Woolams hasn’t got off to the best starts, but there is more than enough time for things to click back into place for the OAs. Added to that, opening fixtures against Rosslyn Park and Ampthill & District were never going to be easy and a positive display against the latter in Round Two will give Hogg hope that his side can get a result this weekend.
Darlington Mowden Park v Cambridge
Darlington Mowden Park’s only defeat in the last three rounds of National One rugby was against Hull Ionians in the final game of the 2016/17 campaign. DMP’s victory over Loughborough Students on the opening weekend ended a run of one win in six league matches and it looks as though the northeast side are recapturing some of the form that led to them finishing in sixth place two years ago.
DMP followed up their triumph over Loughborough with a victory over Hull Ionians so Cambridge will know that a stern test awaits them tomorrow. The Blood and Sand began the season with a good win away at Fylde, but failed to build on that in Round Two as they slipped to a defeat against Loughborough. Can Ross Stewart’s men make it back to back wins on the road this Saturday?
Bishop’s Stortford v Plymouth Albion
Two wins from two against possible rivals this season. Andy Long’s men could not have wished for a better start to life in National One having secured victories over Caldy and Old Elthamians. The men from Silver Leys may feel that the visit of Plymouth Albion this weekend, will be their first real test in the third tier, but the current National Two South champions will be oozing confidence and are more than capable of clinching their sixth league win on the spin.
Stortford have only lost once in 15 matches so Plymouth Albion will be fully aware that despite the Hertfordshire club being one of the newly promoted sides, they certainly won’t roll over this Saturday. Kieran Hallet and his side would have been pleased to get off the mark last weekend and they did so in style running in seven tries against Esher. After their narrow defeat against Blackheath in Round One, they will be keen to put that behind them once and for all as they aim for two successive wins this weekend.
Blackheath v Ampthill and District
Life at Well Hall has gone swimmingly for James Shanahan thus far. The former Old Albanian Head Coach has secured back to back wins in his opening fixtures in charge of ‘Club’, but the major positive Blackheath can take from those victories has to be the teams they came against. To beat Plymouth Albion and Rosslyn Park is not an easy thing to do so if the London-based side were to add Ampthill & District to that list, then it would further enhance their claims as possible promotion contenders this term.
Promotion has just been out of reach for Ampthill and District in the two seasons they have been in National One. The A’s have finished third and fourth respectively and they may believe that a shot at the title could be a realistic aim. Could it be third time lucky for the men from Dillingham Park? Well seven points from a possible 10 is not a bad start at all and victory this Saturday away at an in-form Blackheath would certainly suggest that the A’s are capable of challenging this season.
Loughborough Students v Caldy
Caldy put the disappointment of losing to Bishop’s Stortford behind them last week as they produced an assured performance against Fylde to clinch their first ever victory in National One. The Wirral side returned to winning ways on home turf in Round Two, but they will be hoping they can open their account on the road tomorrow as they take a trip to Loughborough Students.
Caldy have lost just three of their last 32 matches which is the sort of consistency Loughborough Students crave. Granted, Caldy played 30 of those matches in the division below but the Midlands side would love to string a sequence of positive results together as they look to continue building at this level. The men from Epinal Way have already had a mixed bag of results this term. They lost to Darlington Mowden Park in Round One, but made amends with a tight win at Cambridge last week. Can the Students pass their latest test this weekend?
Esher v Rosslyn Park
Rosslyn Park have already experienced a roll coaster of emotions in the first two weeks of the new campaign. Kieran Power’s side were rampant on the opening weekend as they thrashed Old Albanian, but were swiftly brought back down to earth last Saturday as they were soundly beaten by Coventry. Park will hope to cut the inconsistency out as soon as possible, starting with a trip to Esher in Round Three.
Like Park, Esher also suffered a reality check in Round Two. The Surrey based side outplayed Old Elthamians in Round One, but conceded seven tries in defeat to Plymouth Albion last weekend. Another test awaits Esher this Saturday when they welcome Rosslyn Park to Moseley Road, but they have won their last three matches on their own turf.
Fylde v Old Elthamians
For Fylde and Old Elthamians, this weekend presents the chance for one of these sides to open their accounts for the season. Both teams have suffered back to back defeats so they will be desperate to break their duck in Round Three. Fylde, under the stewardship of Warren Spragg, have lost to Cambridge and newly promoted Caldy so the Lancashire outfit will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that when they welcome new boys Old Elthamians to Woodlands tomorrow.
Old Elthamians Head Coach Gavin Lach has said this week that all he cares about is ‘getting something in that win column.’ They will be hoping that occurs this weekend following defeats to Esher and Bishop’s Stortford, but OEs would have taken positives from both of those losses. Something has got to give this weekend in the northwest, but which team will claim their maiden victory of the 2017/18 campaign?