Cinderford crash on Club’s buffers.
The “If only” phrase came out regularly at Well Hall on Saturday. If only we had played like this for 80 minutes v Rotherham, v Plymouth, v Rosslyn Park, v Cambridge, we would be top of the league!! Ah well, for the moment, let’s enjoy the comfortable victory against a strong Cinderford side.
Playing into a strong, gusty wind it was important for the Club to keep possession as much as possible and this is exactly what happened. Receiving kick off the home side made their intentions clear as they moved confidently through the phases but a dropped pass curtailed this encouraging start. However, Cinderford elected to kick back to us and we were off again. A penalty conceded by Blackheath was then kicked to the corner and the Cinderford line out drive looked ominous – however it was held. Forced to move the ball, a crunching, ball-spilling tackle in mid field by Leo Fielding, (playing against his old club), set the tone for the rest of Blackheath’s defensive effort which, for most of the game, successfully rebuffed all Cinderford’s, not insignificant, attempts to carry powerfully.
With a 10-4 scrum count in favour of Blackheath it was evident where the mistakes were being made and, coupled with our boys more than holding their own against the much vaunted opposition scrum, we were able to dominate the game and territory. Whilst the visitors had a 9-5 line out count in their favour, most of these were in their own half and they rarely, if at all, posed any threat.
For the home side, Fielding and Ben Ransom, occasionally stepping in at fly half, continually asked questions of the opposition defence and only desperate tackling prevented points. High on the first half “carry” count was Danny Herriott who in recent weeks has become much more than a passive prop in open play and has added a spot of dynamism which gained vital yards against the wind. One of these carries contributed to the best bit of phase play which eventually created a hole in the defensive line which Ransom waltzed through to score the first try, duly converted by Elliot Clements-Hill on 16 minutes, 7-0.
Following the restart a “not straight” line out by Cinderford resulted in a scrum on our 10m which provided the platform for Fielding to make a searing 50m break through midfield and it was Henry Staff, up in support, who received the scoring pass to touch down near the posts after 20 minutes and extend the lead, 14-0.
With their tails up the Club’s energetic play was let down by handling errors from two successive scrums. Aggressive defence against Cinderford’s heavy forwards then secured a turn over and a rousing forward charge featuring 3 splendid offloads was only stopped by the visitors’ heroic defence. With 37 minutes gone Freddie Owen, who had tackled his heart out against the bigger opposition forwards, had to leave the field after a heavy knock, and was replaced by Harry Fry, normally a hooker, but now pressed into service as a flanker. Cinderford managed to repel a sustained attack near their line in the closing minutes of the half as Club continued to dominate.
In the 6th minute of the second half Cinderford went down to 14 men when a high tackle was punished by a yellow card. Immediately a turnover in their 22m was quickly moved right and Jake Lloyd made no mistake touching down for the 19th time this season; Clements-Hill added 2 points from wide out, 21-0.
Blackheath brought their bench players on and continued to have the edge on their opponents in most aspects of the game. Whilst not as spectacular as some performances this season it was more solid than many and proved a satisfying watch for a disappointing crowd of just over 300. In a rare scrummage lapse the Club were shoved off the ball and the ensuing attack led to an overlap and converted try, 21-7, and brought some consolation to the hard pressed visitors.
Any hopes Cinderford had of a revival were soon dashed when after prolonged pressure in the 22 Joe Tarrant threw a long pass for Alex Pickersgill to score unopposed wide in ‘Pickersgill Corner’, 26-7. Another abortive attempt to play from deep late in the game, saw Cinderford drop a pass which was gleefully picked up by Lloyd who also strolled over unopposed, 31-7.
So for the first time in 156 matches the Club played without Captain, Markus Burcham and showed there is life after MB, though Markus is planning to be back for the next match away at Loughborough on March 23rd – can’t wait.
By Des Diamond
PS Ampthill hammered OEs 36-6, so look favourites for promotion.
Ampthill 96 OEs 91 Rosslyn Park 91 Club 87