Club soaked away on the Stort!
When this fixture was re-arranged, due to snow, from 3rd March to Good Friday, thoughts of it being played in glorious spring sunshine must have crossed many a mind.
It might have been quite a sight too, with its pleasant clubhouse and array of white marquees giving Silver Leys something of the feel of an out-ground cricket festival.
Sadly this vision didn’t come to pass, as the rain that began falling from the leaden skies around midday became progressively harder through the afternoon and, aided by a strong breeze, made it a thoroughly unpleasant experience for player and spectator alike.
A little less so for Bishop’s Stortford perhaps! The Hertfordshire side have consolidated well in their first-ever season in National League One, and this result, which gives them an impressive double over the current longest-serving club in domestic rugby’s third tier, will rank as one the highlights of this campaign.
For a bedraggled Blackheath, however, it will leave the Club, and in particular head coach James Shanahan, wondering how they failed to put clear water between themselves and the opposition while they had the forward advantage early on, instead leaving cracks available for Stortford to seep in and eventually submerge them.
With ground-making difficult, both sides inevitably sent plenty of ball up into the damp greyness, but Joe Tarrant made a couple of useful line-breaks to keep Blackheath on the front foot, and as the visitors won a series of early scrum penalties, numerous phases sucked in enough defence for Harry Bate to find space to cross out wide on the left.
One feature of the game, however, would be Stortford’s ability to make better use of their more limited opportunity, the hosts driving hooker Declan Caulfield over at the end of the first quarter, and although Blackheath, now without Bate (the unfortunate open-side suffering a hip injury, but replaced with the welcome sight of a returning Devin Montgomery), continued to dominate both line-out and scrum, the score remained level at 5-5 at the break.
The game followed a similar vein after the re-start, only for a well-struck George Cullen penalty to nudge Stortford ahead, and even a one-man advantage for ten minutes, as Will Roberts was sin-binned for a high tackle (the Stortford loose-head fortunate not to receive a worse sanction later in the game for repeating the offence!), couldn’t help Blackheath add to their tally.
Instead, as the visitors became increasingly desperate, Stortford’s confidence grew, and with their pack gaining the ascendancy, replacement prop Seb Brownhill was driven over beneath the uprights on 65 minutes for the decisive try. Cullen’s simple conversion brought up the fly-half’s 201st point of the season, moving the him up to second-highest points scorer in the league ahead of Tarrant, and thereby threw further cold water on Blackheath’s already sodden afternoon.
Blackheath will hope that a return to home soil will bring a change of fortune as they host Cambridge next Saturday. Kick off at Well Hall is at 3 pm.
Tries: Caulfield, Brownhill
|13||Markus Burcham (Capt)|