Blackheath Bandits vs Shooters Hill
28 October 2023
The Bandits went to the top of Kent Met B on Saturday with a satisfying 31-12 victory against a Shooters Hill side which was considerably reinforced by Charlton Park Rugby Club. Though the second half was fairly even and scrappy, another strong first half display from Blackheath had already taken the game away from the visiting Shooters Hillians. Before the match began though, the day was an important one for the Bandits; with a Veterans game going on simultaneously at Dartfordians, this was the first time since April 2019 that the Club social section has had two XVs out at the same time. Such strength in depth is a very good sign indeed.
Blackheath opened the scoring on Saturday within moments of the kickoff, as the Club’s pressure on the catcher forced a penalty which scrum-half Zac Bainbridge kicked to the corner. From the resulting lineout, carries from the forwards created the space for the ball to be moved wide, and fullback Alex Beckett scored near the left touchline. Shoots responded quickly after the restart, however, as they were able to regather possession and put up a high ball over the recent try scorer Beckett. A bump against the upright in the process of catching the ball caused it to be spilled conveniently for a Shooters Hill player to pounce on and score, which with the conversion put the visitors in to a 5-7 lead. Blackheath got ahead again three minutes later, as possession was won once more in the visitors’ half after the kickoff, a couple of quick phases created the chance for Bainbridge to put returning centre Dylan Barnes in to enough space to squeeze over the line in the corner. A Nathan Brindle conversion took the score to 12-7.
The Bandits looked great in possession, and Bainbridge was able to add a score of his own after 25 minutes, profiting from a penalty advantage for a high tackle to force his way through and cross the line. Bainbridge was again involved in a further score before half-time, breaking away after a lineout inside the Club half and racing up to the edge of the Shooters Hill 22. As he was brought down, he offloaded well to the supporting flanker Seb Eguia, who handed off a defender and powered away from the remaining chasers to score a very fine try on his Bandits debut. The first half concluded with Blackheath leading 24-7.
With a full bench, Shooters Hill looked capable of changing the dynamic of the game in the second half. Fresh legs brought waves of pressure for the Bandits to endure, and a powerful scrummage gave the visitors a series of penalties which culminated in a try ten minutes after the restart. More pressure over the next ten minutes led to a yellow card for skipper Cam Squire, who had been leading well from the front throughout. Blackheath did not panic though, and as the game became scrappier and those Shooters Hill fresh legs lost their freshness, the Bandits came back in to the game. Squire’s 10 minutes rest passed without a score, and within seconds of his return to the field, he was instrumental in wrapping up the game. Some good field position and pressure brought about a penalty 5 metres out, which was tapped by Bainbridge, passed to Squire who flicked the ball on to the charging Viv Vilmiki, who barrelled over the line. A final conversion from Josh Mckechie took the Bandits past 30 points.
Precision deserted both teams in the last ten minutes and there were no more scores, although some serious physical contributions were made by back rows Lewis Gibbs and Tim Cetin, carrying and tackling hard. Aside from Eguia’s try, it was encouraging to see fellow debutant Alex Omeyer carrying well in the centre, and recent joiners Gibbs and Valmiki playing so effectively in the pack. A further special mention goes to wing James Pierson for hurtling in from Gatwick Airport to man the bench for the team.
The Bandits have four wins from their four league games, and are next in action on 4 November at Bromley RFC.
Bandits team vs Shooters Hill: