UCS Old Boys coach expects a tough start against division’s new boys

UCS Old Boys' new captain, James Boyde

UCS Old Boys' new captain, James Boyde - Credit: Archant

UCS Old Boys’ player-coach Carl Bradshaw believes the division’s new boys will be a major threat in London Division Two North-West as his side prepare to kick off their campaign against relegated Beaconsfield on Saturday.

Bradshaw has led UCS to seventh and 10th-place finishes out of the 12 teams in the league during his two seasons in charge.

And, although he feels the West Hampstead outfit from Ranulf Road are primed for an improved campaign, he is wary of their early opponents.

The Old Boys travel to Buckinghamshire to take on Beaconsfield this weekend and they then make the trip to newly-promoted Twickenham before hosting Old Priorians, who have also made the step up, in their fourth fixture.

“We don’t have an easy start,” said Bradshaw. “Beaconsfield have come down from the division above and they were unlucky to do so – I think they finished 10th out of 12.

“Twickenham are another big club who are used to playing at this level and above, despite a few recent seasons in the league below. They seem to have their act together and they have a large squad.

“Old Priorians have come up too and they’ve been getting consecutive promotions so it will be interesting to see if this is their level or if they’re passing through again.

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“We expect it to be another very competitive league. There might be one or two teams pulling away at the top, but we discovered last year that there isn’t very much separating the bottom six.

“You have to win games when you’re given the opportunity to do so, because otherwise you can quickly find yourself at the wrong end of the table.

“But I think we’ve probably got a stronger squad that can compete more consistently with the better sides. It’s all looking promising so far and we’ve recruited very well.”

New signing Gareth Watson-Cowen will play as hooker or tight-head prop, having played in Wales, while back row Phil Trotter has

arrived from Belgium and centre Dan Hastings has come in from Christchurch, New Zealand.

UCS have also welcomed scrum-half Tom McAviney, from Jersey as well as utility back Adam Davidson – a former UCS schoolboy – and

Nottingham University graduate Tom McKelvey.

There is a new captain too, with last season’s player of the year James Boyde replacing Dave O’Dwyer, who is stepping down after two years in the role but continuing to play for the side.

The early signs are encouraging, with the Old Boys recording victories in both of their pre-season outings, having earned a 19-14 home win over Hertford’s second XV and triumphed 63-18 away against Fullerians’ first team.

Bradshaw added: “With the quality of our recruitment and the success of our pre-season, we will be aiming for a top-six finish, but we are under no illusions – it will be a tough campaign.”