STOURBRIDGE RFC director of rugby Neil Mitchell believes Saturday’s clash with Blaydon represents a benchmark game for his side.

The Stourton Park outfit got back to winning ways with a nail-biting victory over Nuneaton last weekend and now host Blaydon, where Mitchell played all his early rugby.

At first glance, their visit looks a typical early season encounter between two mid-table sides.

However, the match has a lot more significance for the home side.

Courtesy of the RFUs fixture guru, Stour’s September has told little of the teams true potential in English rugby’s re-constructed third tier.

An opening day win over Blackheath promised much, but the London side’s subsequent poor form has taken some of the gloss off the five points banked.

Four promising performances against the division’s high-fliers produced a smattering of bonus points, but the superior cohesion, fitness and physicality of full-time opposition ensured the form book was only briefly threatened.

By contrast, the next three months bring a series of less predictable matches against opposition of similar hue. By January the Stourton Park faithful will have a much clearer picture of whether 2009/10 will be remembered for bitten finger nails or popping champagne corks.

Last week’s narrow 18-17 victory at Nuneaton offers grounds for guarded optimism, but a mixed performance against opponents with a style untypical of rugby at this level, has brought little real clarity.

Stour’s excellent first half display, including scrum half Tom Richardson’s third try of the campaign, and a well taken maiden score for on-loan Coventry winger Simon Frewin, promised much. The forwards competed well, while Richardsons game management ensured his side stayed in the right areas of the field.

However, after the break, despite facing a gusty wind and an eight-point deficit, Nuneaton dominated possession and territory. And when flanker Ben Avent added to prop Brook Davies’ first half score, they looked likely winners.

Some dogged defence kept the visitors lead intact but for Stour followers the second half, which extended to an hour courtesy of a lengthy injury stoppage, made painful viewing.

If Blaydon provides a benchmark for Stour, the fixture also has special resonance for Mitchell, who played all his early rugby at the club, and still has family in the area.

He said: “Its a big game for me personally, you always want to do a job on your old club.

“Blaydon are in a similar position to ourselves, having made a number of changes this year, and brought through quite a few promising players from local junior clubs.

“They will be a good side and we’ve got to learn from the mistakes at Nuneaton if we are going to win.”