Dartfordians 2nd XV vs Blackheath 3rd XV
15 January 2022
The Bandits slipped to their third defeat of the season on Saturday, losing 17-15 at Dartfordians in intensely frustrating circumstances, with a late rally failing to get them over the line. Although losses against Beckenham and Colfeians were heavier on the scoreboard, the winnable nature of this match, coupled with the number of errors and penalties, left a bitter taste.
The Club 3s are no stranger to a slow start, but this one appeared to last approximately 55 minutes. The Bandits’ lineout, which had provided such a healthy platform last week against Medway, misfired regularly as Dartfordians were much more proactive in their competition; without this steady stream of ball and a means of effectively relieving pressure, the Club were forced on to the defensive for much of the first hour. That the first half only ended 7-0 to the home side was testament to the energy of the Bandits defence, and few could doubt the effort in the tackling. The doubt seemed to creep in around the offside line, however, as Blackheath players continually found themselves on the wrong side of it. Attacking opportunities for the Bandits were few and far between in the first half, but they came close to scoring after a rare successful lineout move, hooker Conor Mitchell and Centre Daf Lloyd just missing their connection and the ball going loose. Darts had the lion’s share of possession and territory throughout, and opened the scoring with abreakthrough on the wing after a midfield turnover shortly before half time.
The second half initially showed little improvement for the Bandits, with a dropped kickoff giving Dartfordians good field position. The Blackheath pack dominated the scrums throughout, and almost managed to clear the danger, but handling errors kept the threat to the Blackheath line alive. A Darts’ scrum five metres from the Club line was driven back a further five metres, but the home side were able to scramble back possession and a strong run from their number 8 reclaimed the lost ground. From there, Dartfordians‘ discipline held out snd the Bandits were unable to keep them out.
With the score at 14-0, the Bandits, mercifully, started to look sharper. Threatening runs from Daf Lloyd and Mykea Perry were followed up with better support and some lineouts going to hand and, with 25 minutes left on the clock, Ryan McSweeney drew in defenders and threw the cheekiest of offloads to Nik Dinning, who scampered over to score. The game became much more competitive, although Blackheath managed to concede a couple of penalties inside kickable range, one of which was slotted by Dartfordians, making the score 17-5 going in to the game’s closing stages. Darts were not allowed to exit from the kickoff, and a turnover and some powerful runs from Mitchell and Perry led to a yellow card for the home side, which was quickly followed by another try in the corner: scrum-half Kai Roper-Blackman broke away and threw a basketball jump-shot style pass to replacement wing Luke Brooks to dash through for his first score for the club. With minutes left, a quick score was needed, but seemed unlikely as another handling error turned the ball over inside the Bandits’ half. From the resulting scrum, however, other replacement wing Jamie Begg threw himself in to the action with a dramatic interception, and a 90-metre race away to the tryline, which gave the Club an opportunity to level the score with the conversion. Anguish came, however, as Lloyd ran up to take the conversion quickly and give Blackheath a chance to win the game, but pulled the conversion across the posts and wide.
There was still the possibility to snatch victory, especially after Darts missed an ambitious penalty goal with 90 seconds left on the clock. More powerful runs took the Club in to the opposition half before another penalty was awarded to the Bandits, and though the lineout had not been a consistent source of ball all game, the decision was made to kick towards the corner. This was a risk which did not pay off; the ball went loose and was regathered by Darts, who gleefully put the ball out to end the game.
Strong tackling early on had kept the Bandits in touch on the scoreboard, but perpetually being caught offside, and failing to get the lineout firing, left the Club stuck in their 22 for the first period. There were some genuinely outstanding performances even in defeat, and Mykea Perry was very justifiably named by the opposition as man of the match. Darts are something of a bogey side for the Blackheath social team – happily there will be an opportunity for revenge in a few weeks.