Blackheath profit from Sale reductions.
Under grey Manchester skies the Club made a successful first visit to Heywood Road the home of Sale FC. Coming away with a bonus point victory, 18-32, was exactly what was required, though the fashion in which it was achieved was unexpected and was aided by 2 red cards for the hapless hosts.
Having gained possession from their own kick-off the Club went through a number of phases with a mix of driving and passing plays, the result being an early penalty kicked by Leo Fielding 0-3. However a defensive offside in midfield soon allowed Sale to equalise, 3-3.
The Club, like many other teams, have not found it easy to defend against well organised driving lineouts and, as if they knew, Sale exploited this with a front peel and drive to score what would be an unconverted try leaving them 8-3 ahead after 10 minutes. This acted as a spur for the Club to “up the intensity” and initial good work by full back Ben Ransom led to an outside break by skipper Markus Burcham who then delivered a perfect scoring pass for Jake Lloyd to cruise in for his 18th try of the season which levelled the score, 8-8. Ransom was returning to club colours and, in making his season debut, was posing a threat with his attacking sorties.
Second row, Neale Patrick went off with an injured shoulder on 20 minutes and was replaced by Harry Fry, normally a hooker, who moved to the back row and completed a sterling shift. The scrum was pretty well matched and, despite a red card for punching by the Sale tighthead, they continued to cope, that was until the last minutes of the game.
A good chance was wasted when the Club lost their own lineout on Sale’s 5m line; however order was quickly restored and the Club resumed its attacking mind-set. A break by the ever dangerous Sale winger, Odogwu, saw Blackheath concede a penalty which was kicked to the corner in anticipation of further lineout success. The drive was thwarted and eventually stopped in front of the posts but the ensuing scrum yielded a penalty to Sale for pulling down, making the score-line 11-8 after 35 minutes. A lineout turn over on 5m allowed the Club to relieve a period of Sale pressure and finish the half with more spirited yet unproductive attacking play.
Early in the second half Sale lineout possession which was generally excellent throughout the game provided ball to attack the midfield and then switching back to the short side a clever pass set the full back careering through and linking up with Odogwu on the left for an easy touchdown which was converted to put Sale 18-8 ahead. Immediately, from an attack off a Club scrum, Sale conceded a penalty for not releasing and Fielding’s kick from 30m reduced the deficit to seven points, 18-11.
Neither side could employ an effective kicking strategy that would have influenced a game which was lacking coherence and structure. As if to prove the critics wrong a 10 phase passage of play promised better things from Blackheath but a knock on put paid to that. Then Sale had a similar promising multi-phase attack deep in the visitors 22 which was eventually stopped through dogged defence. Thus it was significant that the next score came from a piece of sharp individualism which succeeded where team work had failed. From a midfield breakdown Sale knocked on and the loose ball was gathered by the arch poacher, Harry Bate who, from fully 55 yards showed an electric turn of pace to outrun the chasing Sale defenders and score under the posts; the 2 points were duly added by Fielding and it was 18-18 with 20 minutes to go.
A period of frantic end to end stuff where neither side had the wherewithal to overcome the defence ended when Blackheath secured field position in Sale’s right hand corner. After 7 minutes of inconclusive scrummaging where continual resets had the backs wondering why they had turned up, the Club 8 eventually got a squeeze on which could only end up with the award of a penalty try, 18-25.
At kick-off a bit of pushing resulted in the referee issuing another red card for punching against Sale, and reducing them to 13 men with 6 minutes to go. After some sustained attacking an offside penalty allowed the Club to kick to the corner and seek a last minute 4th try bonus point. The lineout drive was held and Sale won a turn over but had to face a scrum on their 5m line; the pack applied enough pressure to gain another scrum, Blackheath put in. With both sets of forwards on their last legs the Club mustered enough drive to win the inevitable penalty try, a bonus point and an 18-32 away victory.
By Des Diamond