BLAYDON face a thorough test of their burgeoning credentials when they host SSE National One leaders Ealing Trailfinders tomorrow.
Micky Ward’s men are currently third after a run of four victories, but the director of rugby knows their West London opponents will be a truer test.
“We have got a great opportunity and we are upbeat about doing it,” said Ward, who is without flanker Ben Morris (ribs) and wing Zach Kibirige (hamstring).
“We are definitely facing a step up in quality over these next few weeks, but we aren’t going into it with any fear.
“Ealing have a good balance with a big pack and sharp backs, but we are doing well and the lads are performing.” Newcastle Falcons’ teenager Jonny Burn continues at scrum-half despite Hall Charlton returning from New York.
Ward added: “Jonny is a canny little player, and with Andy Davies out for three months with a double leg dislocation we needed to get somebody in to share the work-load with Hall.”
Tynedale welcome back full-back Chris Harris after two months out as they aim to end their run of five defeats at Richmond.
Chairman of rugby John Shotton admitted: “Even putting aside our injury problems we are just low on confidence and not playing well. We are getting dragged down near the bottom now, but we are just one decent result away from picking things up.”
In National Two North Darlington Mowden Park test their nine-game unbeaten run at leaders Stourbridge, while Westoe go for a fourth successive victory when they travel to Bromsgrove. Scrum-half Chris Judson is back in contention, although centre James Banks (hamstring) misses out.
Morpeth travel to Alnwick tonight in the first semi-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup, with a date yet to be confirmed for Tynedale Raiders’ trip to Percy Park in the other semi-final.
In county action, Northumberland Under-20s open their account on Sunday when they take on Yorkshire at Middlesbrough RFC, with head coach Loren Nardini saying: “Yorkshire have been the dominant county in under-20s county rugby for the past decade.
“It will be a tough first game, but we have a very talented and exciting squad this season who have been training hard since September.”
Durham, meanwhile, open up against Cumbria at Kirkby Stephen on Sunday.
Northumberland Under-20s: O Foster (Northumbria Uni), H Thorpe (Percy Park), P Weightman (Tynedale), G Andrews, C Popp (both Northumbria Uni), J Guy (Blaydon), R Griffin (Westoe); S White, J Northwood (both Tynedale), T McCrone (Northumbria Uni), C Campbell (Darlington Mowden Park), J Hedley (Percy Park), A Grieve (Berwick), J Davidson (Percy Park), R Lenderyou (Ponteland).