Club go top as they bounce back with a classy win over a resurgent and confident Darlington Mowden Park side who were hoping to continue their winning ways after thrashing OE’s the previous week
Saturday was an early start with players, coaches, management and support staff meeting up at Kings Cross station at 8am ready for the long train journey to County Durham to play our northernmost fixture. As many of you will know the Northern Echo Arena, home to Darlington Mowden Park, is a tough place to go at the best of times but the match took on extra significance after the hosts had so comprehensively torn up the form book by beating Old Elthamians so convincingly the previous week.
The long journey blues were not apparent immediately and Club started well. They had some good early possession and kept the ball in hand but although the first points went the way of Blackheath thanks to a Joe Tarrant penalty it was DMP who slowly began dominating possession and they were the first to cross the try line, shortly followed by a second. In the first half Club had quickly established a dominance in the scrum, which only grew as the game went on, but Blackheath play in attack was not quite going to plan and passes were often hurried and a defence that had echoes of the previous week, was making life tough for the boys from South East London. DMPs first try was set up by centre Warren Seals who put Shaun McCartney in for the first try, this was quickly followed by their second when Seals, involved again, this time off loaded to Matt Heaton who went over for the score. At this stage DMP were in total control of the game but Club were not out of it, at least on the score board. Ultimately the end of the first half saw Club under a sustained period of pressure as DMP were hammering again at the line looking for another try but Club, as they have done many times this season, held firm and went into half time only 14-3 down.
At the half time interval the dressing room talk was about getting back to trusting the systems, sticking to the processes and playing the way we want to play and sure enough in the second half it was quickly apparent that Club were starting to return to the style of play we have become familiar with prior to last weeks game.
As planned the first try of the second period went to Elliot Clements-Hill who benefitted from a splendid move from another dominate scrum which saw Jake Lloyd take a fantastic line to cut through the DMP defence culminating with a lovely ball to ECH who finished the move off well. Joe Tarrant stepped up and calmly kicked the conversion to make the score 14-10 with only 2 minutes gone in the second half.
Now it was the turn of the Club pack to show what they could do with its dominance at the scrum. Club had a good attacking position just inside DMP 22 which after an initial re set resulted in the DMP pack being shoved backwards at an almighty rate of knots and as it went over the line in tatters the referee judged that the home side had committed any number of infringements leaving him absolutely no other option than to award a penalty try which put Club ahead for the first time 14-17.
With confidence still high from last weeks beating of Old Elthamians the home side were looking to bounce straight back and they went on the attack and they were soon awarded a penalty after Blackheath hooker Mike Perks was adjudged to have not rolled away following his huge defensive tackle. The kick was successful bringing the scores level at 17-17.
There then followed a rather significant, unpleasant and somewhat out of character moment in the game whilst Club were looking to attack and get back into DMP territory. Having been awarded a penalty for a deliberate knock on by DMP Blackheath chose to kick for touch and make some easy metres which they did and having cleared the ensuing ruck Club second row Neale Patrick was then held down by the DMP replacement prop Ignis Darkintis who then proceeded to deliver (for all to see) a series of punches to his head and face only 5 metres from the assistant referee and the referee Mr James. The referee had absolutely no option other than to send the replacement prop from the field issuing him with an indefensible red card.
Playing much more in the familiar Blackheath style in the second half Club great attacking play was stretching the host side defence and a well worked move and clever kick through culminated with Club Captain Markus Burchum stripping the ball away from DMP second row and diving over the line. The conversion was unsuccessful but Club were now in the lead 17-22. The visitors were pressing hard now and working at maximum effort when they did not have possession and this was causing DMP to start throwing wild passes and losing their composure as a result Jake Lloyd timed his run to perfection and intercepted a needless wide pass and ran 50 metres in under the posts. The conversion was successful and Club were now 17-29 ahead.
DMP then gave it everything to try and get back on terms and much like the defensive effort in the first half Club were not going to give anything away now. But then some great play from DMP with a cross field kick then another kick into the in goal area saw them close the gap to 24-29. The hosts could obviously smell another scalp as they ramped up the pressure with wave after wave of attacks in Club 22 and too much of it on the 5m line. This period of defence went on for 7 or 8 minutes and it was vital that Club gave away no penalties or worse lost a player to the sin bin like the previous week. This was when the character of this team really showed through because as the Club twitter feed said at the time, it was real ‘bodies on the line’ rugby so credit to both teams and it was not for the faint hearted. Every single player from both sides threw themselves into their clubs cause for the final few minutes but in the end despite all the pressure and desire DMP could not find a way over and the last play was a crucial turn over by Club stalwart Tom Stradwick right on his own goal line. However there was time for one more play and Club cleared up to the 22 and had to manage one last line out, which they secured through Anders Nilsson and replacement scrum half Stefan Leibenberg kicked the ball high in to the vast stands to seal a well deserved and hard fought victory for Club 24-29.
As we saw last week the Northern Echo Arena can intimidate some sides so to come away with a win and five points is very pleasing indeed.
We would like to thank everyone at Darlington Mowden Park for their off field hospitality yesterday and wish you well for the rest of the season.
Next weekend sees CLUB back at Well Hall hosting Ampthill and the following week we travel to South West London to face Rosslyn Park. These are two huge games in this season and we know that all club supporters will be out in force for both of them supporting the boys and giving them that extra boost.