Round 26 West Country Wills Preview: Blackheath vs Taunton Titans

Article published:
April 23, 2024

What a performance from Taunton Titans! By stretching away from fellow strugglers in the second half of the final league encounter of the season at Veritas Park, Somerset’s top side secured a 37-31 win. It was more comfortable than the scoreboard suggests, the visitors from the Forest of Dean ran in a couple of consolation scores late on.


Yet even whilst Tony Yapp and his players were celebrating in a huddle on the pitch, news was coming through on the grapevine that Sale FC who had been leading Bishop’s Stortford 12-19 deep into the second half had not only allowed the relegation threatened Hertfordshire side to level up but presented them with a last-gasp kick at goal from the edge of the 22. Fifteen metres to the left of the posts said the message on social media. One hardly dared hope that that was how wide the Bishop’s Stortford kicker had managed to hook his attempt. It was duly kicked and Bishop’s Stortford ended up grabbing four points rather than two. As luck would have it, they travel to Cinderford on the last day of National League One action for this season. Titans must go to Blackheath assuming that Bishop’s Stortford will win in Gloucestershire but hoping that Leicester Lions are tamed by Sale FC in Cheshire.


                                               Wins                Points Difference                    League Points

10        Sale FC                         11                                -52                                           56

11        Bishop’s Stortford       9                                  -159                                         51

12        Leicester Lions           10                                -181                                         50

13        TauntonTitans            7                                  -232                                         48

14        Cinderford                  9                                  -242                                         46



What is clear is that nothing but a win in South-East London against Blackheath will do for Taunton. A losing bonus point coupled with a four try bonus point would take them level on points with Leicester Lions (assuming that they themselves were beaten in Sale) but the Midlanders’ superior record of wins will be the deciding factor. Famous last words but draws are so rare in rugby that to secure one against Blackheath along with a third point for scoring four tries and edge ahead of a comprehensively beaten Leicester would be verging on fiction. No, there is nothing for it but to count on winning at eighth-placed Blackheath whilst either Sale FC or Cinderford do Taunton a massive favour by defeating their guests – and preferably by good margins.


It is not inconceivable that Bishop’s Stortford could lose by fewer than 7 points at Cinderford. That would give them 52 points – the same as Taunton would be on with a regular win at Blackheath. A defeat for Bishop’s Stortford by fewer than those 7 points and in a high scoring game where they score four or more tries would take them to 53 points, the maximum tally now achievable by Titans. In that event the number of victories is taken into account and there is nothing Taunton can now do to ameliorate their position in that respect.


More likely, perhaps, is that Leicester Lions could suffer a shut-out at Sale FC’s Heywood Road home and finish on 50 points (or 51 if they lose narrowly), meaning that a Taunton win at Blackheath would see them leapfrog the Leicestershire side. As soon as they reach 52 points – which would happen with a narrow defeat with four tries - Leicester will be assured of finishing above Titans unless Titans can win in London with at least four tries themselves.


It's all mathematical for now but, ultimately, it will come down to which side can hold their nerve best over 80 minutes on a spine-tingling final Saturday.


But who are Blackheath and what can Titans expect?


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, also has Chiefs experience. Blackheath is captained from the second row by Ed Taylor. Titans must hope that their hosts, having secured their own National One future, will already have an eye on the post-match end of season beers and a summer holiday (all whilst praying that the same outlook has not crept in at Sale FC).


The crowd of nearly 1,400 at Veritas Park must surely have given belief to the Titans that they could get the job done against Cinderford. Though this final fixture of the season is away, it would be great to get as many voices as possible behind Toots and the boys as they run out at Blackheath. If you can get there to cheer them on, please do so.  


Entrance tickets to Blackheath’s Well Hall home can be bought at the gate or in advance via Ticket Co and lunches can be booked by emailing Simon Boulter. Payment at the ticket hut is by card only (although they don’t accept American Express which is such a frustratingly common story even though you would have thought it were a major credit card). For visitors the entrance is £15 which is reduced to £10 if the visitor is also partaking of lunch (an additional £32). For Under 18s it is free although the lunch is still £32.Parking is available on a first come, first served basis for £5 but it regularly fills up so public transport (there are good bus links on the 122,132, 161, 286 and 314 services and by train to Eltham Station which is under half a mile away). Kick-off is at 3.00pm.


Come on you Titans.

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Article published by:

Richard Kitzinger


Rugby fan and Taunton resident, Richard loves watching Titans and creates written content for the rugby club.