Students in another class
A pulsating finale that nobody would have anticipated as this match moved towards the final ten minutes.
With Blackheath looking totally out of sorts, and heading for a crushing defeat (their first at Well Hall), the hosts suddenly injected pace and ingenuity that had deserted them to that point.
Trailing 32-5, the Club, with Leo Fielding leading the way at full-back, began to attack from deep, breaking tackles and forcing the penalties that, from an improved line-out, enabled first Aston Croall in the 70th, and then Devin Montgomery in the 74th minute, to drive across.
With three minutes remaining Kieron Scutt forced his way over from close-quarters which, with Fielding crucially adding a third conversion, brought the hosts within range, but although Geoff Griffiths and Jake Lloyd combined in a break down the left flank to stretch the Loughborough defence one more time, the chip ahead was grounded in-goal by a relieved Student, and with no more time, Blackheath would have to settle for two bonus points as their only reward.
Nevertheless, had they stolen an unlikely victory it would have been desperately hard on Loughborough. For a majority of the contest Blackheath proceeded to dig themselves into a hole that not even Dave Allen, briefly coming out of retirement to make a 279th Club appearance, could do much about, with a malfunctioning line-out giving them no platform to work with, and constantly kicking possession away to a gleeful opponent who either charged them down or collected safely to run back again.
In contrast Loughborough were more astute at the breakdown and, demonstrating slick handling to add to some devastating pace in their back division, tore the hosts to tatters in a half-hour period around the interval, collecting five tries for their full quota of points.
Twice moves began from their own territory to carve through the opposition for tries for wing Jack Stapley and outside-centre Rotimi Segun, Josh Sharp, who had an excellent all round game at fly-half, adding both conversions and slotting in a penalty between both scores for a 17-0 lead at the break.
Within six minutes of the re-start, full-back Will Edwards and number-eight Charlie Kingham had added two more tries with breaks down each wing, and as the Students’ confidence surged, a neat line-out move saw replacement prop Will Morrison across to leave the hosts staring at a 32-0 deficit.
Nevertheless, just as further carnage looked inevitable, the emptying of the Club’s replacement bench managed turn the tide.
Simon Whatling’s cross-field punt was met at pace by Anders Nilsson to race across in the corner, and Tom Chapman’s switch to scrum-half, together with Harry Fry’s arrival at hooker, inspired a final charge which left the hosts just short.
‘My heart was beating fast for a long while after the final whistle,’ said Loughborough director of rugby, and former Club hooker, Dave Morris. ‘All credit to Blackheath for the way they fought back.’
‘But I’m thrilled with the result. We played some of our best rugby here today and huge praise goes to our coaching team for laying out the plans, and to our players for executing them so well.’
Next Saturday Blackheath make their first trip for ten years to Billesley Common to take on second in the National League One table Moseley, before returning to Well Hall on 3rd December for the visit of Macclesfield. Both matches kick-off at 3.00 pm.
Tries: Nilsson, Croall, Montgomery, Scutt
Conv: Fielding 3
Tries: Stapley, Segun, Edwards, Kingham, Morrison
Conv: Sharp 2
15 Leo Fielding
14 Jake Lloyd
13 Markus Burcham – Capt
12 Geoff Griffiths
11 Tom Chapman
10 Mark Cooke
9 Sam Eydmann
1 Aston Croall
2 Mike Perks
3 Terry Read
4 Gregor Gillanders
5 Devin Montgomery
6 Freddie Owen
7 Dave Allen
8 Tom Baldwin
16 Harry Fry
17 Kieron Scutt
18 Anders Nilsson
19 Simon Whatling
20 Dan Hamilton