PREVIEW: Ealing Trailfinders v Southend Saturday 8th January 2011

It’s been a while, 11th December in fact, since there was any rugby at Vallis Way. Hopefully you will remember where to go come 3pm on Saturday!

So a warm welcome back to Vallis Way and this mouth watering National 2 South fixture, as top of the table Ealing Trailfinders entertain 4th placed Southend. Neither team has played since the 11th of December, with Ealing overcoming a stubborn Henley Hawks side, 41-16, whilst Southend squeezed past OA’s by 31-26.

Ealing’s captain Ben Ward said ahead of the fixture, “With no rugby since December it has been hard for the boys. We have trained hard when we can, and we are very lucky with the facilities at Vallis Way. In some respects it’s good to allow some injuries to heal, but we are all really looking forward to starting the year well. Southend have had some good results of late, and they will come here looking to get a result. We know we will have to be on form to get the result we all want".

Southend are in a similar position to Ealing, their Head Coach, Andy Holloway said to the club website before this weekend’s game, "As a squad we’ve been very much looking forward to this game since the final whistle went at the end of the home fixture which ended up as a very entertaining 32-32 draw (entertaining for everyone other than the coaching staff!). For us the challenge is fairly obviously big in that Ealing are on a tremendous run of form scoring points for fun and top the league. Both sides come into the game having seen very little rugby but no doubt fresh and free of niggles after the recent extreme weather conditions. Both teams play the game in the way it should be played and I’m looking forward to seeing if we can pick up where we left off after our games with Jersey & Old Albanians. To be honest it will be nice for the players just to get out and play again after nearly a month with no competitive rugby, both sets of players will be desperate to get back into the competitive swing of things again.”

A short history of Southend RFC

Southend Rugby Club has a long and proud history dating back to 1870; a year before the Rugby Football Union itself.

In that year Admiral Charles Barstow Theobald gave a set of ‘By-laws and rules’ to lads playing football at the local Milton Hall sports ground. So the club was formed.

It was called ‘Southend Foot Ball Club’ and one feels an affinity with those Victorian lads when reading their rules and noting similarities with today’s laws such as Rule 4: A player entering a ‘squash’ on the wrong side is offside.

First newspaper reports began to appear in 1878 and early opponents were another Essex side Ilford Wanderers. One reports notes "the pack did not get low enough down, thus wasting weight and allowing the visitors to screw and carry the ball with them". Who says the game has moved on? A young player of the period Jimmy Cotgrove reported that, "we trained with Paper Chases", no wonder the scrummaging technique was not up to much.

During the1978/79 season the club moved to its current ground at Warners Park and a brand new purpose built clubhouse. A grandstand, physio room, gym and shop have been added since. The move saw Southend enter one of its most successful playing eras. The following decade saw the Eastern Counties cup won on three occasions and the Essex Cup lifted four times. In addition Blackheath (10-14) and Rob Andrew’s Nottingham (12-25) were both run close in the John Player cup. 1980 saw the club play one of its most famous games in the televised cup match at home to Gloucester.

The visitors sported an awesome reputation and six current or future internationals in their pack. Leading in the last quarter Southend just went down 6-12 but confirmed their position as one of the strongest sides in Eastern Counties at the time.

The formation of leagues saw Southend placed in National League Four South. Memories of great wins against sides such as Redruth and Lydney remain from this period but from the mid-nineties playing strength diminished and results suffered. Whilst team spirit remained strong relegation and league restructuring saw the club tumble to London North East Three as the new millennium dawned.

However the dawn broke brightly. The appointment of former fly half Kevin Harman as Coach and James Shearing as Captain backed by a playing focused committee saw the fortunes of the club once again on the up.

Much hard work, a new ambition, discipline and approach has spring boarded successive promotions back into London Division One. That same season Southend went on to win London One and in the season 2003-04 saw the club back in the National Leagues again. Playing in the National 3 South the First XV came a very creditable 6th and won the inaugural Essex Senior Cup.

Since then, Southend have maintained National League status and are currently playing in National 2 South under the guidance of the Head Coach Andy Holloway. I wonder whether Admiral Theobald knew what he was starting one hundred and thirty six years ago. The members of Southend Rugby Football Club past and present owe him a debt of gratitude and raise a pint in his honour, as we look back with pride and forward with excitement to the rugby challenges ahead.

Southend in 2011

Southend currently sit in 4th position, on 50 points, 10 behind Ealing. They have won nine of their 14 starts so far this season, four losses and one draw against Ealing (32-32) back in September. A game both teams felt they should have edged!

Of the four losses, two have been on the road (Henley, 36-11 and Dings 28-25) and two at home, 31-38 to Clifton and Taunton 23-25. There have been some memorable victories though, at Warners Bridge Road, against Jersey 33-25, Richmond 35-22 and Worthing away 28-36.

Full back Andy Frost is their top points scorer, with 216 and indeed he tops the NS2 points scoring list. ( Neil Hallett on 210). Frost is also their joint top try scorer on 11 along with wing Mark Billings. Stand off Mike Stanley is 3rd on the list with nine.

Of the 25 tries Southend score away from home, they scored 13 in the first half and 12 in the second. Compare this to Ealing’s 58 at Vallis Way, 28 come in the first 40 minutes, 30 in the second!

They have scored 521 points and conceded 312. They have taken nine bonus points for four tries and three losing bonus points as well.

Southend do top the yellow card table, with 14 to their name! Ealing have only six .. angels one and all………

Ealing’s Director of Rugby Mike Cudmore will be looking to get the ball rolling in his teams assault on the league with a decent home performance and right the wrongs of the visit to Warners Bridge Road last year, he said, "We are all looking forward to this weekend’s game at home to Southend. When we played them back in September we was not happy with our all round performance and the good thing about league rugby is you get a second chance to put that right. We are training hard and expect a very competitive game on Saturday and a big home performance from all involved".

Recent games between Ealing Trailfinders & Southend

16/09/10 Southend 32 Ealing Trailfinders 32
27/03/10 Southend 27 Ealing Trailfinders 28
28/11/09 Ealing Trailfinders 39 Southend 28

Other National 2 South fixtures this weekend

Clifton v Henley Hawks
Hinckley v Shelford
Jersey v Canterbury
Newbury v Lydney
Old Albanians v Worthing
Taunton v Richmond
Westcombe Park v Dings Crusaders

See Statistics for details.