Blackheath Bandits 10 v Old Colfeans IIs 17
By Nicholas Probert
Having made it to this point of the season unbeaten and leading their league, the Bandits took the opportunity of a cancelled league fixture to test themselves and arranged a fixture against Old Colfeans seconds.
This represented a great opportunity for the Bandits to assess their progress over the last few seasons and get a look at the level of rugby they hope to be playing weekly in seasons to come.
OCs offered a blend of youth and experience, along with a familiar face of ex-Blackheathans (and loyal Bandit’s tourist) Jordan; the Bandits, while missing a handful of regulars were able to turn out a strong XV with a considerable bench seeing the happy return of Cormac McMahon, Alex Tate and Zac Hunton and the debut of Mitch Hargreaves.
After the prolonged heavy rain in recent days there was a risk that game couldn’t be played but hard work had made Pitch 3 playable, albeit heavy going.
OCs started strongly from the kick off and were soon battering the Bandit’s line with a series of pick and goes that resulted in an unconverted try with only a couple of minutes on the clock. While the Bandits had defended bravely it was clear that this would be a tougher contest than any so far this season.
OCs provided more of the same directly from the restart but the Blackheath defence was tighter this time and a textbook low tackle from full back Juan Perconis put OCs into touch. This allowed Blackheath to take possession for the first time and play to what has been a strength this year with a good lineout and strong driving maul, but when it was moved wider, as was to be a frequent occurrence on a very cold day, dropped the ball in the midfield gave back the initiative. OCs struggled with handling too and the Bandits were very sharp on their errors, with Perconis kicking ahead and regathering before good handling found them all the way down the field before, to Coach Chapper’s horror, they knocked on again.
Now though, the Bandits forwards were keen to assert themselves and pushing OCs off their own scrum caused huge disruption, forcing a lineout 5 metres out. This was well taken and driven hard with the unmistakable figure of John Walker going over to tie the scores.
OCs retained possession for much of the rest of the half, but the Club defence tightened up, with a cover tackle on the OC 13 by loose head Ryan McSweeney a particular highlight.
The second half started well for the Club, hooker Ed Bunton putting in a huge hit to turn over the ball and the forwards and backs combining to set up a series of rucks on the OC line with 9 Ben Stanyard diving over to score. Captain Matt Clark narrowly missed the conversion, but Blackheath were ahead 10-5 and more than holding their own.
One of the coach’s concerns this season is that the Bandits have a tendency to a collective 10 minutes of lost concentration. This had not cost them so far but against opposition of the quality of OCs it was fatal. OCs ran hard and direct and unfortunately the defence fell short. First the OC winger skipped through several arms-only tackles to slide under the posts for a converted try, then the OC forwards showed good hands and support running to set off their open side on a 30 yard run, eventually offloading to their 9 to go over. Try was unconverted, giving OC a 17-10 lead.
Blackheath reacted well to this short period in which they looked, for the first time, the weaker side. Regaining their forward dominance and with Matt Clarke’s strong positional kicking Blackheath forced OCs to defend for much of the rest of the half. Their defence was a level or two above that which the Bandits usually see and on a day in which handling was difficult the closest the Club got to an equalling score was the sharp pick up by Juan Perconis of a Clarke grubber, sending Thomas O’Neil over, only to have it called back for being in front of the kicker.
Having hoped for a real test, the Bandits certainly got one and while the result was disappointing, there was no doubt that the Bandits were highly competitive, with only the few minutes in which they let their performance standards drop being the difference between the sides. Back to the leagues next week where the Bandits will work on their precision and playing at full intensity for the full 80 minutes.
Man of the match: Juan Perconis
Try scorers: John Walker, Ben Stanyard
U16’S v Canterbury
By Jon Saunders
The U16’s entertained Canterbury U16’s at the weekend in what is always a competitive fixture especially after meeting in the Kent Cup final last year. Although a number of players on both sides were away with Saracens, Kent or Essex, both clubs have strong U16 squads and the quality of rugby on display was extremely high despite the rather soft conditions under foot.
Canterbury started brightly. With the sun in our eyes, the away side used the conditions to skilfully kick and gain territory. Once in our half, they put together a free flowing move, spinning the ball wide to score in the corner. However, there is a strong team spirit running through the U16 squad and they set about gaining parity. Using similar tactics to Canterbury, Blackheath established territory with a well executed tactical kicking game and then also used our passing game to get the ball in our winger’s hands to even up the game. From the kick off we gather the ball and set about establishing a lead using the same tactics. After gaining territory, a complicated double loop move executed to perfection ended up with the ball in our winger’s hand and another try. Having gone into the lead you could see the confidence flowing through the Blackheath side and despite a dogged and resilient defence by Canterbury, another two tries were added before the whistle went for half time. 20-5 to Club.
A couple of substitutions made a half time did not change the fluency of Blackheath’s approach. With a comfortable lead, Club concentrated on securing quick ruck ball and exploring the gaps in the Canterbury defence, exploiting the strength of our backs. A further couple of tries were scored through well executed passing after the forwards had turned over the opposition’s ball and had punched holes in the Canterbury defence. Canterbury rallied to put together their own excellent effort to score but in the final ten minutes Club were able to return to their scoring ways with a further two tries. Final Score: 40-10.
Many thanks for Tony and the Canterbury team for coming up to Well Hall. As ever with Canterbury it was an enjoyable match played in the right spirit.