MATCH PREVIEW: NORTH WALSHAM
It is sixteen years since Canterbury were last at North Walsham, Saturday’s opponents in the opening round of the National 2 East season. On that day, in 2006, it was our introduction to rugby at National level while Walsham were established members of the old National 3 structure. Now the situation is reversed with the Norfolk side being promoted last season after several years playing at lower levels. In that first match we lost by ten points and Head Coach Matt Corker is expecting another tough encounter with the home side keen to make an early impression after their successful promotion campaign. He says: “Ten weeks of preseason flies by and even though it has not all gone our way, we have had lots of opportunities to learn, and the group has grown so much over the summer. The players decided that the way that we “gel” is important to us, and they have backed this up by welcoming all our new players into the pack. This has been great to witness, and I love watching characters emerge especially last season’s graduating colts who are experiencing adult rugby for the first time.
“Injuries are unfortunately part of the game and there are a few faces missing for Saturday, but I am a strong believer that this offers an opportunity for someone else to show what they are capable of. We are traveling to North Walsham with a strong squad, and I fully expect them to come all guns blazing. We know from first-hand what it is like being promoted and they will be very keen to have a strong start and we are expecting a physical contest.”
Those injuries have given chances to scrum half Will Calder and flanker Harvey Furneaux, two young and home grown players who have bright futures. There are league debuts also for newcomers Nathan Morris and Cameron Murray. Kick-off is 3pm.
So, a new season gets under way and this time the threat of Covid does not hang over it so heavily. With the revamped National 2 league structure in place it feels like a fresh start for everyone. The benefits of splitting the league into three regional divisions could not have come at a better time with fuel and energy costs soaring. There will be less travel and, hopefully, fewer large bills to absorb. Healthy competition remains as,unlike the Premiership, promotion and relegation will keep all the clubs honest. The top club in the three divisions, West, North and East, will be promoted and at the other end of the tables, the bottom two will go down. Our own league looks strong with clubs like relegated Blackheath and Tonbridge Juddians looking for return to National One. All clubs will start with an advantage over Westcliff who have been deducted five points, the price of failure to play their fixture at Worthing last season. Newcomers Sevenoaks have also been under investigation, for different reasons, but there has as yet been no news of any decision by the rugby authorities
Friday Night Bonus
One of the many positives of a busy pre-season programme in August has been the popularity of Friday night rugby. The attendance for the Bishop’s Stortford game was good but was dwarfed by the turnout for the visit of Westcombe Park There were over 400 at The Marine Travel Ground and on the same evening another a healthy crowd at the Simon Langton where the Pilgrims met Thanet Wanderers. It was a real Canterbury ‘old boys’ night where there were familiar faces both on and off the pitch. ‘Combe had our former wing Kieran Thompson in their starting line up while Thanet featured front row men Jimmy Green and Neil Wakefield. Kieran’s time in the Canterbury shirt was blighted by a series of injuries so it was good to see hm fit and well. In the ‘Combe dugout were two former members of our coaching team, Darren Molloy and Dave Marshall, This will be a season where we renew acquaintance with several local clubs because of the new league structures and that, too, was reflected in the size of the crowds..