Cool Tarrant gives Club dream start
A terrific contest to start off the new season with eight tries, shared evenly, a lead that changed hands no fewer than six times, and ultimately decided by the boot of Joe Tarrant who landed a 40-metre penalty with the last kick of the match to secure victory for the hosts by the narrowest of margins.
It started well too. As Plymouth began to build off their first line-out, great anticipation saw Markus Burcham move up to intercept and sail home from 30-metres for a 7-0 lead within a couple of minutes.
Blackheath had scored early in the two sides’ previous meeting at Well Hall as recently as April, only to be crushed 46-7, but this is a different Club side led by James Shanahan and with only seven of the 20-man squad involved on that spring afternoon.
Now they capitalised on further errors to construct a substantial lead as Tom Stradwick picked up from a ruck to go over after Albion lost their own line-out ball, and although Dan Mugford got the visitors off the mark with three points, Josh Davies’ quickly taken tap-penalty sent Tarrant flying down the left flank, the fly-half finding Jamie Davies on his outside to break a tackle and finish off for a 19-3 lead on a quarter of an hour.
Nevertheless, despite their ropey start, Albion remain one of this season’s favourites for the National League One title, and as Harvey Skinner mopped up loose ball and broke up field the momentum turned in the visitors’ favour. Jake Lloyd did brilliantly to chase down and bring the inside-centre to ground, but hung around too long for the liking of referee Veryan Boscawen, conceding the penalty from which Matt Crosscombe crossed out wide.
The right-wing added his second as Tom Baldwin followed Lloyd to the sin-bin as Albion moved the ball wide from a five-metre scrum, and with full-back Dan Powell executing a perfect chip and chase following a poor clearance, the Devonians inched ahead 20-19 at the break.
The lead was extended further with second-row Dan Collier driven over within three minutes of the re-start but, led by an outstanding performance from CJ Osazuwa in the second-row, the Blackheath pack began to re-assert themselves, forcing the penalty try for collapsing which led to them edging ahead by a single point and sending Collier to the sin-bin.
However, with neither side able to make a decisive breakthrough it was left to the kicking of the respective fly-halves to determine the outcome. Two Mugford strikes sandwiched one from Tarrant, but as Albion handled on the floor out wide on their ten-metre line, the Club man stepped up to see his side home.
James Shanahan spoke afterwards on achieving victory over the club he both played for and coached for the best part of two seasons.
‘Relief,’ said the Club’s Head Coach.
‘We controlled the first 25 minutes brilliantly, but two yellow cards suddenly left us chasing the game. But the boys showed a lot of character to stay in the fight for 80 minutes, something we’ve talked about, and we got the chance to win.’
‘Of course it means a lot to me personally and I’d have been disappointed to lose given the position we were in, but fortunately Joe’s hit a massive pressure kick and given us all five points.’
‘We’ll enjoy this and move on to next week.’
Next week sees Blackheath make the short journey along the South Circular to Rosslyn Park. Kick off at The Rock is at 3.00 pm.
Tries: Burcham, Stradwick, Davies (Jamie), Penalty try
Conv: Tarrant 3
Pens: Tarrant 2
Tries: Crosscombe 2, Powell, Collier
Pens: Mugford 3
15 Sam Evans
14 Jamie Davies
13 Markus Burcham (Capt)
12 Alex Pickersgill
11 Jake Lloyd
10 Joe Tarrant
9 Josh Davies
1 Hayden King
2 Matt Miles
3 Danny Herriott
4 Chukwuma Osazuwa
5 Neale Patrick
6 Tom Stradwick
7 Harry Bate
8 Tom Baldwin
16 Harry Fry
17 George Baker
18 Sam Farmer
19 Jake Bedding
20 Aled Jenkins