Photos: Tony Fielding
A result which may have a significant impact on who gets promoted to the Championship, but perhaps more importantly for Blackheath, a league-double over a side who have impressed everyone, including apparently themselves, in their first-ever season in rugby’s third tier.
Rams were on a roll going in to this match, with eight wins from their previous nine outings lifting them into second place in National League One, a mere three points behind leaders Richmond, until Blackheath, producing one of their best performances of their campaign, halted them in their tracks.
Indeed, in what was a very physical but enjoyable contest, it may be claimed that Blackheath ‘left a few points out there,’ as they say, though that’s not an accusation that could be laid at the door of Mark Cooke.
The Club fly-half had a sublime afternoon with the boot, slotting five out of five on a day when a vicious wind swept through the Thames Valley and across the Old Bath Road ground.
His final tally of eleven, including the supplement to the four tries, three of them from the right touchline, and one penalty, may have been less than the difference between the sides, but it kept Blackheath with the advantage, apart from a brief moment midway through the second period.
However, this was an all-round team performance, and it began after a couple of minutes as the Club pack, including Nathan Morris making his debut at hooker, dismantled the opposition eight at the first scrum to win a penalty.
The kick to touch saw Neale Patrick take ball at the front of the lineout, and as Blackheath probed, and Cooke (who else!) mopped up loose ball to keep play alive, a gap opened up for James Catt to score.
Rams responded quickly with their own kick to touch, full-back Kieran Leicester collecting the ball on the bounce as it was played infield, and running in from 30-metres, but a high tackle on Stef Liebenberg enabled Cooke to move Blackheath into a 10-5 lead.
Showing the enterprise that has served them well, Rams spurned a potential three points to search for bigger reward, but the Club’s defence, which made 200 tackles during the course of the match, double that of the hosts, held firm and limited the Berkshire side to a 34th minute penalty from fly-half, and recent Oxford Blue, Tom Humberstone.
Instead, another strong scrum allowed Cooke to find Leo Fielding, the full-back breaking the line to send Jake Lloyd across in the right corner, giving Blackheath a comfortable 17-8 half-time lead.
However, there is no doubt the third quarter belonged to Rams. While Blackheath allowed their attacks to break down, the hosts’ game came together, and right-wing Jak Rossiter carved open the Club’s defence with a couple of devastating diagonal runs for two unconverted tries to put his side into the slenderest of leads.
Only fleetingly though. Following a quick tap-penalty in front of the uprights from Liebenberg, Nick Foster swapped wings to take Fielding’s pass and score out wide on the right.
And on 64 minutes, and with the Club back-row, in particular the excellent Tom Burns, continuing to make in-roads, the service was there for Fielding again to provide the scoring pass, this time for Lloyd to add his second try, and with a reinvigorated defence and dominant scrum, Blackheath held steady for the remainder of the game.
Next Saturday Blackheath host Plymouth Albion at Well Hall. Kick off is at 3 pm.
Tries: Leicester, Rossiter 2
Tries: Catt, Lloyd 2, Foster
Conv: Cooke 4
|12||.||Markus Burcham (Capt)|