Brilliant Blackheath derail the Coventry rollercoaster
Ultimately it probably won’t affect the direction on the National League One title, such is Coventry’s dominant position at the head of the table, but a mighty jolt to the West Midlanders’ otherwise serene progress back towards Championship status.
For Blackheath, an exceptional performance, full of pace, slick handling, and refusal to take one step back at the forward exchanges.
They also re-discovered a cutting edge, mislaid back in the autumn, which returned to embarrass the runaway league-leaders with no fewer than ten tries, and their highest points tally for eight years.
‘I set the boys the challenge of going out with the target of winning, not just getting close and maybe a bonus point as I think many clubs do,’ said Blackheath head coach James Shanahan.
‘If they win, so be it, they are the better team, but today we were outstanding, didn’t give them a chance, and kept on top for 80 minutes.’
‘We’ve been a shadow of ourselves for the last eight or nine games, but hopefully this will now give us the belief to get our season back on track and back into the top four.’
Six of Blackheath’s tries came in a first period where the hosts’ intent was obvious from the outset.
As Markus Burcham put Leo Fielding on a run through the midfield, the inside-centre chipped ahead before the ball was held up over the goal-line. The first scrum resulted in a free-kick, but as the Club pack drove forward from the re-set, the Coventry eight caved in for referee Gareth Holgrove to award the penalty try and a lead within the first three minutes.
Burcham twisted his way across, as Josh Davies forced a second five-metre scrum, and following a Joe Tarrant penalty, CJ Osazuwa’s brilliant work at the re-start saw Harry Bate barge over out wide before Jake Lloyd weaved through a group of static defenders for try number four.
There were superb performances all over the field. Hayden King, Kieron Scutt, and James Hallam mighty against the ‘feared’ Coventry scrum, Matt Miles’ and Mike Perks’ excellent breaks in the loose and almost perfect throwing in at the line-out added to the industry of the loose forwards
However, the next try owed itself to the anticipation of Fielding who romped away unchallenged after juggling an intercepted pass close to half-way, and with another scything move seeing Tarrant and Jake Lloyd sending Davies sprinting over, Blackheath held a 39-0 lead on just 34 minutes.
Nevertheless, Coventry at last gained some control and served notice, courtesy of tries from fly-half Will Maisey and outside-centre Anthony Matoto, leaving the score 39-12 at the break. Matoto followed up with a second after the re-start, and with the game open and flowing, and Coventry scoring at an average of 43-points a match prior to this contest, there was just a hint of an unlikely comeback.
However, Lloyd squeezed over for his second try on 44 minutes to ease any tension, and although full-back James Stokes responded with a bonus score try for Coventry, Scutt pierced the defensive line and Geoff Griffiths’ lovely pass saw Bate sprint across in the right corner, the deserving Tom Stradwick came up with the ball after the Club pack had driven over from a line-out (bringing up the half century in the process), and Burcham added number ten.
Matoto gained some consolation with the completion of his hat-trick near the end, but the 79th minute red card for scrum-half Pete White for punching poured on further misery for Coventry and their large legion of travelling support.
‘Credit to a side that put us to the sword and were better in every facet of the game,’ said Coventry director of rugby Rowland Winter.
‘It’s now up to what we do in the next seven days that counts, and hopefully we can use this in the right way and respond next week,’
Blackheath will hope they can stay in top form as they travel to Humberside next Saturday for their meeting with Hull Ionians. Kick-off at Brantingham Park is at 2.00 pm.
Tries: Penalty try, Burcham 2, Bate 2, Lloyd 2, Fielding, Davies, Stradwick
Conv: Tarrant 2, Fielding
Tries: Maisey, Matoto 3, Stokes
Conv: Maisey 2
|13||Markus Burcham (Capt)|