Tight loss for Blackheath as darkness falls in Rotherham
The Club travelled to South Yorkshire home of Rotherham Titans only to see their free-flowing style bogged down on a dismal December day, resulting in a narrow loss 10 – 7, their first in nine games.
However, earlier in the day the match looked unlikely to go ahead and many still question whether it should have. Having assembled early at King’s Cross station the players and coaches of Blackheath were forced to wait on a call to tell them whether or not they would be making the journey at all. Despite poor weather overnight, and a less than ideal forecast for the afternoon, the pitch was declared playable and the first meeting of the two sides since 1990 would go ahead.
This top-of-the-table encounter was always unlikely to be a high-scoring free-for-all but a combination of the compact playing surface at Clifton Lane and challenging conditions meant that whoever was able to establish a lead and defend it most doggedly would take the victory.
Blackheath responded well to the home team’s bright start and maintained superiority throughout the first 40 minutes with a try by Andrew Daish, converted by Joe Tarrant. This despite the unfortunate yellow card for Tom Stradwick for joining ahead of the back foot. Even more unfortunate was the injury to Tom Williams, who picked up a knock just before the half. The only positive being the opportunity to give Billy Youngs his Club Debut.
The two teams retuned from the break into driving sleet and into visibility that, without floodlights, fell by the minute. Despite this the Club picked up where they had left off, vocally supported from the stands by Messrs. Baldwin, Fielding and Bate who had made the journey despite injury and gave the home crowd a run for their money in terms of volume.
However, the major turning point in the game came shortly before the sixtieth minute. A Blackheath line out on the five-metre line of the home side, was safely won and quickly became a driving maul, and began to heave towards the line. Frustratingly the defence held strong and the ball was turned over, letting Rotherham off the hook and seemingly inspiring their revival.
After a further ten minutes of to-and-fro a second yellow card, this time for Andrew Daish, gave Titans an opportunity to exploit, which they did.
With a one-man advantage Titans’ pack were able to create a dominance at the scrum which quickly translated into a series of penalties. Most significant of which was when, camped on the Blackheath line, the eight men of Rotherham earned a penalty try from referee Harry Walbaum.
Having drawn the scores level Titans continued to build momentum, earning another scrum penalty, this time just inside the 22m. Replacement Alex Dolly duly stepped up and slotted his effort with two minutes to play. The travellers summoned all of their energies for a heroic last-minute rally but with time and light against them they were unable to have the final word.
Blackheath return to action next week with a visit to Old Elthamians at College Meadow with a 14:00 kick off.
15 Callum Irvine (Dolly 35), 14 Dan Leake, 13 Harry Dunne, 12 Ellis Abrahams, 11 Connor Field, 10 Joe Barker, 9 Connor Dever, 1 Dan Richardson, 2 Ali Thomson, 3 Rikki Stout (Dennis 52), 4 Conor Keys, 5 Luis Ball, 6 Eru Smith-Wano, 7 Zak Poole, 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Jack Bergmanas, 17 Jessie Williams, 18 Will Dennis, 19 Alex Dolly, 20 Jamie Cooke.
15 Joe Tarrant, 14 Jake Lloyd, 13 Alex Pickersgill, 12 Markus Burcham (Capt.), 11 Craig Dowsett (Ackuaku 73), 10 Mark Cooke, 9 Stef Liebenberg (Daly 68), 1 Tom Williams (Young 35) (Dowsett 75), 2 Mike Perks (Fry 68), 3 Danny Herriott, 4 Tom Stradwick, 5 Josh Peters, 6 Andrew Daish, 7 Freddie Owen, 8 Anders Nilsson.
Replacements: 16 Harry Fry, 17 Phil Ackuaku, 18 Billy Young, 19 Jack Daly, 20 Elliott Clements-Hill
Titans: Penalty Try, Dolly (1P)
Blackheath: Daish (T), Tarrant (1C)
Barker (Titans), Stradwick & Daish (Blackheath)
Referee: Harry Walbaum