BY GRAHAM COX
Two of the most renowned club names in rugby union clash tomorrow, as Rosslyn Park make the short trip eastbound along the south circular to take on Blackheath at Well Hall.
The rivalry between the London sides stretches back to the 1880s, but the significance of their latest meeting is that both clubs are in serious contention for promotion to the Championship.
With no outstanding favourite this season, a number of sides could claim the one promotion spot available.
But after suffering setbacks at the weekend sixth-placed Park and the Club, in ninth, need to start making headway soon if they are to remain in contention.
Rosslyn Park had the agony of conceding a 79th minute try to go down 34-33 at Darlington Morden Park.
Blackheath recovered from a poor start to lead twice, only to lose 33-22 at Ampthill.
“Having got back into the game, we should have kicked on, but instead we started piling error on error,” said Blackheath head coach James Shanahan.
“We’ve actually defended well this season, but Ampthill were clinical when they had opportunities, an attribute we’ve been lacking so far.
“Rosslyn Park had a tough season last year, but have recruited well over the summer and, like us, have blown hot and cold.”
And on Blackheath’s progress to date, Shanahan said: “It’s been a bit frustrating, and we’ve let ourselves down a bit in application and execution, but if we can apply what we do in training we’ll be there or thereabouts.
“We’re a little behind where I’d be hoping we’d be, but it’s a tight league.
“Both Park and ourselves have three wins from five, in another five games from now we’ll really see who is in contention.”
Blackheath against Rosslyn Park is a 3pm kick-off at Well Hall.
Wimbledon paid for their complacency as they lost 21-22 at home to CS Stags in the London & SE Premier League.
The visitors had only won one game before Saturday’s match while Wimbledon team had four bonus point victories behind them.
Wimbledon’s pack was rightly a bit miffed at the referee’s refusal to yellow card any of Stags’ forwards for consistently collapsing the set-scrum as Dons’ bulldozed them backwards. But the scrum apart, Wimbledon’s line speed was poor, their lineout worse and their turnover ball non-existent.
Stags launched a fast and furious onslaught from the kick-off and after multiple phases went over for a converted try.
After repelling several Stags attacks, a succession of Wimbledon scrums in the opposition 22 finally produced a fine drive from which flanker Kane Alboni was able to touch down.
Centre Freddie Hooper’s conversion levelled the score.
But a further wave of Stags attacks ended with a second try for the visitors. Dons hit back with a powerful drive and scrum-half Campbell Musson nipped through a tiny gap to score beneath the posts, Hooper’s conversion put Dons 14-12 ahead.
Stags once again piled on the pressure from the restart, eventually outwitting Dons’ defence to score another converted try. Despite Dons’ dominance in the set scrum the half finished with them 12-19 down.
The opening of the second half saw more of the same, Stags kept possession and their backs posed a real threat, kept at bay only by some desperate Dons defence. A contentious penalty gave the visitors another three points and they went two scores clear.
They continued to look the more likely to score until well into the final quarter, when flanker Jack Flanagan drove over their try line following a series of scrums collapsed by Stags – but still no card.
Hooper’s conversion took Wimbledon to 21-22 but it was too little, too late.
This defeat could serve as a wake-up call for the Dons tomorrow when they travel to the new undefeated league leaders Westcliff.
IMAGE BY FELIX URSELL
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