Dartfordians 4th XV vs Blackheath Bandits
Saturday 16 September 2023
League rugby was played by the Bandits for the first time since late 2022 on Saturday, starting the season on the road at Dartfordians. The Club dominated the first half and took a 5-26 lead, which was just as well, as the second period became very scrappy and no points were scored.
The start was the polar opposite to last week’s shakiness at London Irish, with strong running from the kickoff driving in to Darts territory. A lineout was secured in the home side’s 22, and a smart move was run off the set-piece which saw inside centre and captain Daf Lloyd crash through the defence and score inside five minutes, which Lloyd himself then converted. Possession and penalties were traded over the next ten minutes or so, before outside centre James Pierson broke through and was stopped 10 metres short, the ball was recycled quickly and fly-half Zac Bainbridge saw an overlap on his left. No mistake was made with the hands, and wing Ed Bagshaw took advantage of the space to his front to score a few yards in from the touchline. The lineout again was a fine source of ball for the Club on both their own and opposition ball, with several steals being made by Chris Bowdery and Lewis Gibbs. This provided a solid platform for further scores in the first half, and the forwards added to the scoresheet when flanker Tim Cetin scored his first try for the Bandits, crashing over from short range after another Lloyd break.
Blackheath added a fourth try on the half-hour mark, after Darts indiscipline in midfield let Bainbridge put the forwards within striking distance with a penalty kick to the corner. The resultant lineout saw a good drive stopped, then individual forward efforts go close to the line, but Darts were stretched enough for Bagshaw again to find space out wide and run in his second score, to which Lloyd added a third conversion. The game could have gone away from Dartfordians altogether at this point, but the home side rallied before the break and strung some phases together which resulted in a series of penalties, taking the game in to the Blackheath 22. A first real sign of defensive weakness from the Bandits allowed Darts to get close, suck in the Club defence, and spin the ball wide to score with men queuing up to put the ball down.
The second half descended in to chaos fairly swiftly. Pierson seemed to have scored a try within a minute of the restart, but was deemed to have used his elbow illegally, which resulted in a yellow card for the Blackheath centre rather than 5 points. With 14 men, the Bandits still seemed to be on top, with Gibbs going close and plenty of pressure from penalties and lineouts, but on what was a warm late-summer day, the clinical finish was lacking. The Club gave away a number of penalties at the scrum in the second half, and technique in the tackle became ragged for both sides. Ultimately neither side could find a way through, and 5-26 was probably a fair reflection of the dominance that Blackheath enjoyed in the first half. Player of the match was given to Blackheath number 8 Cam Squire for his outstanding performance in attack and defence. The Bandits go straight to the top of Kent Met B, and their next game is at home to Shooters Hillians on 30 September.