Competitive rugby is back on the menu for Taunton Titans this Saturday as they begin their third season in National League One with a home fixture for the first time. The visitors are freshly promoted Blackheath who rejoin the third tier of English rugby following a single season in National League Two.
Taunton will come into the game with confidence. The second half of last season saw the county town side play some exciting rugby and pull of some great results, culminating in a final day escape from relegation. Pre-season has given Head Coach Tony Yapp the chance to run the rule over his returning players and a clutch of new signings. Taunton has recorded impressive victories over Clifton, Chard and, on Saturday, a comprehensive win against highly-credentialled opposition from Cardiff Met University, the students playing in the Welsh Championship.
Blackheath is part of rugby folklore. Its history goes hand in hand with the sport’s own chronicle. It was Benjamin Burns of Blackheath(and Edwin Ash of Richmond) who published the initial advertisement in The Times recommending a meeting of “those who play the rugby-type game” and that they “should meet to form a code of practice”. Thus, on 26 January 1871 the Rugby Football Union was founded by 21 clubs in London’s Pall Mall Restaurant. Blackheath, founded in 1858 and claiming to be where club rugby began, was one of them.
Blackheath won 23 out of 26 of their league games last season, in securing the National League Two East title by a comfortable margin. They famously play in red and black and have been at their Well Hall home in Eltham, London since 2015. Amongst their former players they list the first ever England captain, Frederick Stokes (a good surname for an England captain),recently retired England scrum half Joe Simpson, renowned all-rounder C.B. Fry and legendary England flanker Mickey ‘The Munch’ Skinner.
The current squad is coached by James Shanahan who is known in these parts as he played rugby down the M5 at Exeter for a while. One of his prop forwards, Jack Owlett, made 16 Titans appearances during his time at Veritas Park and also has Chiefs experience whilst another front Rowman, Tom Petty, will be hoping they don’t free fall back into National Two this season. Blackheath is captained from the second row by Ed Taylor.
The new Les Phippen Stand will be open officially for the first time since its completion over the summer break with the addition of the filming tower. It certainly gives the ground an extra dimension and it’s worth pointing out how good everything looks after the summer – the pitch in great order, the smart advertising boards surrounding the perimeter of the main pitch and lining the car park and a crisp, clean feel to both the new and the existing stands.
TRFC Title Sponsor British Gas will be the match sponsors for the day and we look forward to welcoming them and their guests for an entertaining day.
Kick-off at Veritas Park is at 3pm. Entry is £15 for adults and free for Under-16s. Parking at Veritas Park on Hyde Lane costs £5. This Saturday hails the return from summer break of the remarkable two-course pre-match carvery in the clubhouse which is the envy of the National League and is still an absolute bargain at just £20 per head. To book please contact the club office on 01823 336363. For those turning up for kick-off, there will be hot pasties and coffees from the Proper Cornish pasty van and there will be three bars open.
Season Tickets & Memberships will be with those who have purchased them prior to the weekend. TRFC Is waiting on delivery for the parking permits however those who have purchased one for the season will still be able to gain entry to the main car park on Saturday.
Taunton resident and rugby lover, Richard Kitzinger writes content for Taunton RFC’s club website and match-day programmes. His day job is writing Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney - he can be found at www.westcountrywills.co.uk or reached on 07504 991893.