Match Report: Club 27 v Plymouth 32

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Club stay in the mix for promotion despite coming off second best against Plymouth Albion

Replacement Dan Mugford produces a last gasp try to snatch victory for Plymouth against Club in an enthralling afternoon at Well Hall.

It was a tense and exciting match which ebbed and flowed throughout the full 80 minutes.  With nine tries and just two penalties, there was a lot of attacking rugby which left supporters on both sides breathless.

Club certainly started the brightest dominating both territory and possession in the opening exchanges. In fact, it was 11 minutes before Albion finally broke into Blackheath territory with ball in hand.  

However, handling errors on both sides meant that the game remained scoreless until the 20th minute when Joe Tarrant slotted his first kick to take Club into a 3-0 lead.

Then, much against the run of play, Albion wingers Joshua Skelcey and Jordan Gott each crossed the line in the space of three minutes in the first half. 

The first try came after 25 minutes when a Plymouth penalty was kicked to touch on the Blackheath 22. The resulting line out created the platform for a nice inside pass from left wing Jordon Gott which released his fellow winger Skelcey for the try, which was confidently converted Matthew Shepard.

Just minutes later Gott was able to add his own name to the scoresheet when a loose pass from Blackheath flyhalf Mark Cooke on his own 10m was gathered by Plymouth’s hard-working pack. The ball was moved out wide for Gott who ran in for the score. This conversion attempt was missed by Shepard.

On 37 minutes Club found their way back in to the match when Joe Tarrant burst through the line after a lovely pass from Markus Burcham. When Tarrant’s offload was deliberately knocked on by Plymouth number nine Cameron Setter, the referee had little choice but to award both a penalty try and a yellow card for Setter.

Plymouth would get the final say of the first half, however, when Blackheath strayed offside giving Shepard a kickable penalty, which he duly slotted.

Half Time 10-15

The second half started much as the first had ended with Blackheath errors creating opportunities for Plymouth and preventing Club from ever really imposing themselves on the visitors.

Blackheath did briefly level the scores when Joe Tarrant made an inspired break on the fiftieth minute. In what could have been a metaphor for the entire afternoon his conversion agonisingly struck the upright and Club lost the opportunity to take the lead.

Plymouth bounced back immediately from the restart and established themselves in Blackheath’s 22.  After a series of patient drives Plymouth whipped out a long pass to put outside centre Raumakita in at the corner.  Although the conversion was missed the tone had been set. Plymouth quickly struck again as a poor Blackheath clearance was fielded and crisp passing put Dean Squire in to extend Plymouths lead to 10 points.

A hallmark of Blackheath’s perfmance’s this season has been their dogged determination and despite conceding two quick scores Club’s ambitions remained undiminished. On 63 minutes the Blackheath pack earned a scrum penalty which was kicked to touch deep in the visitor’s 22. From the resultant line out Club engineered a powerful rolling maul enabling George Davis to score for his team’s second try. Tarrant was unable to add the extras.

This marked the start of an attritional phase of the game as both sides fought hard to gain supremacy, knowing the next score could prove decisive.

It was Blackheath that would win this particular dogfight. A fantastic line and good footwork from Freddie Owen put him through the line into acres of space and, as he was eventually tackled he popped the ball to a hard running Neale Patrick, who could not be stopped. Elliott Clements-Hill who had taken over kicking duties adds the conversion to make it 27-25 to the home side.

With ten minutes on the clock it was set to be yet another nail-biting finale for the Blackheath faithful. Their nerves were further tested when on 71 minutes Jake Lloyd was sin binned, offside at the ruck.

Plymouth turned to their pack who piled on the pressure, launching wave after wave of attacks through their hard-running forwards. Blackheath tried launching attacks of their own hut having spent much of the afternoon there was a sense that they seemed to be trying to defend their lead, understandable considering that injuries meant that the 14 men on the field included three props and two hookers.

Plymouth’s decisive score would was the kind of well worked try that this action-packed spectacle deserved. Starting from. A scrum just outside their 22m they worked through the phases, recycling well and creating momentum.

As injury time counted down Plymouth continued to work through the phases, seemingly breaking the gain line every time. When they finally breached the Blackheath 22m a spectacular miss pass to replacement Dan Mugford left him in acres of space who would cross to score and break Blackheath hearts.

With no time left on the clock Shepard struck a beautiful conversion to put the final nail in the coffin and secure a bonus point win for Plymouth Albion.

Final score: 27-32

If there was any consolation to be found for Club it was that the two bonus points from scoring four tries and losing by less than seven, combined with the other results at the top of the table (Rosslyn Park beating Rotherham 46-24 and DMP beating Old Elthamians 41-26) means that they stay in second place.

This Saturday Blackheath travel to Darlington to face the team that beat OEs and are back at Well Hall to face another promotion chasing team, Ampthill.

Tim Brindle

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