A switch kick-off which caught the home team unawares and a missed sitter of an early high tackle penalty were the only real dents produced by Rotherham for much of the game. Conversely the home team seemed like they were keen to please the 673 spectators seeking reward for their loyalty in weathering a cutting north easterly breeze and consequently produced four tries, three of which were fantastic. Strangely neither side profited unduly when they were playing with the wind.
An early high tackle by Rotherham on Harry Fry, clearly not acknowledging his status of being last week’s hero, gave the opportunity to kick to the corner for a catch and drive. However we were stopped just short of the line and conceded a turn over which was cleared to the 22m line by Rotherham. A knock on at the ensuing lineout was one of only three scrums enjoyed by the visitors in the first half where Club’s handling was at its most clinical. The Rotherham scrum half cleared long and the ball was gathered by Craig Dowsett deep in his own half; a telling carry and pass to the energetic Leo Fielding shredded the broken field defence of the Yorkshire team. Two more sharp passes, with Jake Lloyd prominent, put Mark Cooke in to complete a stunning counter attack with an added 2 points from Fielding who assuredly converted all four Blackheath tries, 7-0.
From the restart and a Rotherham knock on the home side attacked confidently from the scrum drawing a penalty from the opposition and a further one as we again attacked confidently from the lineout. The attempt at goal by Fielding hit the post. This led to a period of pressure from the visitors helped by Club conceding a series of 3 penalties culminating in a missed opportunity when from a lineout on the home team’s 22 they threw a “not straight” and the pressure was relieved.
On the half hour the, as usual, reliable Blackheath scrum provided the launch pad for an attack off the base, by No. 8 Anders Nilsson, into the opposition midfield, then the hands of Cooke, Fielding and Lloyd, who ran threateningly all afternoon, saw the home team backs powering through the crumbling defence. Just as it seemed the attack would break down in the Rotherham 22 Freddie Owen appeared in support to carry the move on and deliver the scoring pass for Fielding to touch down and convert – simply delicious, 14-0.
The final score of the half was more excellent fayre. A scything break by Cooke over the half way line was supported by Jack Daly and Stephen Leonard who was on hand and strong enough to resist despairing tackles to carry over and score another top drawer try, leaving the whole ground with a feel good factor, 21-0, going into the break.
After various short unrewarded phases of play from both sides in a second half lacking the urgency of what had gone before, the Club picked up the pace and went close; twice being stopped firstly by a desperate tap tackle and then having a try disallowed for jersey pulling. It seemed inevitable that the fourth try and accompanying bonus point would arrive soon but it wasn’t until the 74th minute that the icing was applied to the cake. Preceded by concerted attacking play and confirming Blackheath’s ascendancy, it was down to replacement, Ben Ransom to jink and stretch over the line for the point which took us above Rosslyn Park (hurrah!) and into third place in the league, 28-0.
Rotherham refused to lie down and the tiring Club defence was unable to extinguish a last ditch effort resulting in a consolation goal for the equally weary players and their 50 travelling supporters, 28-7. Although Rotherham retain 5th place, the 19 point gap to Rosslyn Park (4th after changing places with us following their loss at Caldy), shows how the top 4 have pulled away from the chasing pack over recent weeks.
Thus we go into our final game on the 27th when we host local friends and rivals, Esher who are perilously close to relegation and it could be us who seal their fate. It is so close that were they to (god forbid) pick up 5 points against us and other teams falter, it would go to any one of a number of deciding factors which your scribe cannot clarify for you, such is the complicated nature of the decision.
Caldy – 61, play at Moseley; Cambridge – 59, play at Sale; Loughborough – 57, host Ampthill; Esher 56, play at Blackheath.