Bexley 19-65 Blackheath Bandits

Bexley vs Blackheath Bandits
Saturday 14 October 2023

The Bandits resumed their league campaign on Saturday against a numerically understrength Bexley, which under the Game On protocols meant a 10-a-side game. The Club team enjoyed the extra space on the pitch, and ran out 19-65 winners. Though the game was unusual for this reason, experience of recent years has provided the perspective that a Game On match is far better than no match at all, and the flexibility shown was commendable.

It took just under ten minutes for the Bandits to get on the scoresheet, having dominated possession right from the kick-off. In broken play after a Bexley clearance kick, Jonny Moore and Ed Bagshaw worked some space, and Moore broke clear to stride home and put Blackheath in front. This was followed straight from the restart by makeshift second-row Lewie Gibbs, as he burst through the Bexley line, shrugged off a couple of chasing defenders and ran in from just inside the Bandits’ own half. Nathan Brindle added the conversion as he had done for Moore’s try, and within moments of the subsequent restart was instrumental in setting up a try for kettlebell-botherer Nik Dinning. After hearing the call for a penalty advantage, Dinning broke from a ruck to the blind side just inside the Club’s own half, and put Brindle in to space outside the last defender. Brindle took the ball to the Bexley 22, and with covering defenders coming across, Brindle found the supporting Dinning with a final pass inside. Not content with converting and providing, Brindle scored his first try of the afternoon three minutes later, as after a brief moment of possession for Bexley in the Club half the ball was spilled, and recovered for Blackheath by Moore. Another fine link-up with Bagshaw created the space for Brindle to coast in. Brindle added a further try before the break, after some more good work from Bagshaw and Dinning created the space. Brindle’s try was out on the touchline, but his conversion was a very well-struck one indeed, and took the score to 35-0.

Bexley enjoyed some more territory before the first half ended, and what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in size. The home side’s outside half and captain put forward several testing chips and grubbers, and the big tight-head had a try disallowed for a double movement. In the last play of the half, Bexley got on the scoreboard with a try scored after sound phase play and solid running from some very large humans. The second half started much as the first half had gone in terms of Blackheath dominance, however, and Brindle sealed his hat-trick shortly after kick-off, breaking away from the base of the scrum and brushing aside flailing attempts at tackles. Wholesale changes were made by Blackheath at this stage with the result in little doubt, and comedy was provided by Jonny Moore despairingly juggling the ball over the tryline and failing to score his second. James Pierson added a try of his own soon after, but Bexley responded gamely, once again building phases and gaining some good territory. As a Bexley forward seemed to be crashing over the line, Pierson stuck out an arm and caught him with a trademark high tackle, leading the referee to award a penalty try to the home side. This was where the good news for Bexley ended, however, as Sam Evans joined the scoring party, firstly crashing over from short range after a string of penalties were awarded to the Club, and secondly after fielding a deep clearance kick on the Bandits’ own tryline in the last play of the match. To shouts of ‘Run, Forrest’, Evans dashed sideways, straightened, skipped through two tackles, sidestepped, brushed off another defender, then powered away from the exhausted Bexley chasers to score a remarkable try.

The Bandits have two wins from their two league games so far, and face a seemingly in-form Old Alleynians side at the Utilita next weekend, 21 October.