Joe Cool shoots down EEEs at the death
When Blackheath lost 28-19 at Molesey Road in late October it signalled a decline in form that quickly ended any prospect of the Club making a serious challenge at the top of National League One, while for Esher it provided a much needed kick-start after a poor opening to their campaign.
Now, in the return fixture, it looked as if an improved Blackheath would stumble once more against an Esher side still looking over their shoulder at the relegation battle beneath them but, with a six point cushion, heading for a maximum five league points from the contest.
However, with five minutes remaining, Club fly-half Joe Tarrant identified space to break from defence down the left flank, before a deliberate knock-on halted the move. With field position, the ball was held up across the goal-line and a penalty conceded at the scrum, all adding to the tension, but as the tapped move saw Jack Walsh send Alex Pickersgill across the goal-line out wide on the left, a hush befell Well Hall (bar an ill-timed police siren in the distance) for Tarrant to the strike the perfect conversion with the final action of the match.
Nevertheless, this was no vintage Blackheath performance and the Club were fortunate to even be in contention against an Esher side superior in most departments.
Geoff Griffiths’ early try, the wing put over by Hayden King after Jake Lloyd and Tarrant had made line-breaks, was soon rubbed out as EEEs picked and drove through some below par tackling before scrum-half Andy Garner touched down at the base of the uprights.
Blackheath went ahead again as Mark Cooke strolled over in the left corner on 13 minutes, the Club continuing to look lively in attack, only for a penalty try from a collapsed drive to hand Esher parity once more.
Tarrant added three points to his two well-struck conversions, but the Esher scrum, and better work at the breakdown, gave their backs the platform to explode at pace, and as Cadan Murley timed his midfield run to perfection, the outside-centre raced beneath the uprights for a well-worked score, giving the visitors a 21-17 lead at the break.
That advantage was extended in the 53rd minute. As Leo Fielding was forced to hold on after recovering a dangerously bouncing ball, Blackheath failed to retreat ten as Esher went for the quick tap, resulting in referee James Clarke awarding a second penalty try.
However, the dismissal of Kieron Scutt for the offence meant, with King off injured, uncontested scrums for ten minutes, doing little to aid Esher’s cause, and on the hour Blackheath, re-invigorated by the emptying of the replacements bench, brought themselves back in to range as Tom Stradwick, Harry Fry and Markus Burcham all made ground before none other than Tarrant squirmed through the defence to score.
Had Tarrant’s opposite number Stephen Boatman struck his 70th minute penalty six inches to the right it would have moved Esher clear, but the ball rattled the upright to leave a door ajar enough for Blackheath to slip through.
National League One takes a break next week and reconvenes on 3rd March with Blackheath’s first ever visit to Bishop’s Stortford. The Club’s next home fixture is against Fylde on Saturday 10th March.
Tries: Griffiths, Cooke, Tarrant, Pickersgill
Conv: Tarrant 3
Tries: Garner, Penalty try 2, Murley
Conv: Boatman 2
|13||Markus Burcham (Capt)|