PREVIEW: Southend RFC 1st XV v Ealing Trailfinders 1st XV

On the road again! This time round the M25 to Southend RFC.

Last weekend saw a close, hard fought victory against an improving Richmond side, by 15 points to 13, Director of Rugby Mike Cudmore said after the game "Richmond came with a specific game plan and we did not problem solve well enough throughout the game.  There were various areas that were well below our performance standards and we will work hard in training this week to ensure these are sorted out before our tough away game at Southend.  We did not play well but still managed a win".

This weekend, Ealing will have to step up the pace when they travel East to visit table toppers Southend, it what many have described as the match of the day in National 2 South, between two of the early favourites for the league title. Maybe a little early for that "title", but with a 35-22 win over the Mond to start with followed by a 53-10 wiping away at new boys Hinckley, they will quite rightly be confident as they take on Ealing at their Leicester Road ground.

Skipper Ben Ward said "Southend have been the form side so far in the league. They have a good set of backs and some powerful forwards. However, so do we. We are very much looking forward to going to their place and testing ourselves. It’s games like this where not much needs to be said to get the guys up for it. We know we will have to be at our best to come away with the points but its a challenge that all of us are very much looking forward. The game should be good to watch with two teams who enjoy running rugby."

Ealing will travel to Southend also in confident mood. A fully fit squad and boosted by two wins to their name so far. They were tested by Richmond last week, and have worked hard on the training paddock this week.

Head coach Kieran Power, despite the below par performance said "Richmond came and defended very well and spoiled a lot of our possession, which we didn’t react well to. This week coming we need to rise above the sort of spoiling games and make sure that the possession we do have is looked after well and used to its optimum for us to be able to each our full potential".

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 off side. 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 it’s 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 IV 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 Director of Rugby Ben Green. 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 2010?

Southend have started 2010 with a bang. They recruited well on the back of a successful end to last season where they ended in 4th place and caused all the top sides problems.

Full back cum wing Andy Frost is starting his season as he finished last, with 38 points to his name so far (after last seasons 212), whilst Frost, Mark Billings and Chris Vaughan have 2 tries apiece to their names. Prop Mark Williams is their only name to have been put on rugby’s naughty step for 10 minutes!

Ealing’s open side Jay King commented after training Thursday, "We know that we were not at our best last week. Richmond came with a game plan in mind to defend and they did it well.  However we have looked at ourselves and you don’t become a bad team overnight, we have confidence in our own ability, and the game plan we want to play. Southend ended last season well and will present a different problem this weekend. We are up for it, as I am sure they are".

Recent matches between Ealing Trailfinders and Southend.

28/11/09   Ealing Trailfinders 39 Southend 28
27/03/09   Southend 27 Ealing Trailfinders 28