Blackheath 29 Darlington MP 27

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Debutants double does for DMP

A brace from former rugby league wing Omari Caro, one of three men making their Blackheath debuts, helped guide the Club to this narrow victory against Darlington Mowden Park in the visitors’ first league trip to Rectory Field. In an open game, played on a firm dry surface, and where both sides can take praise for their expansive approach, the hosts did just enough to keep their noses in front for the most part, and avenge their humiliating 50-10 defeat in the foggy north-east in November.

Much of the credit for Blackheath’s method should go to their second first-timer, and one a little more experienced in the union game. Gordon Ross’ flat passing from fly-half, allied to a desire, along with Mike Canty, to consistently run from deep, ensured an electric start, and as Freddie Owen swivelled to take ball at the back of the line-out, Geoff Griffiths cut a lovely angle for Canty to cross out wide for the opening try.

Soon after, Seb Nagle-Taylor was storming down the left flank, following a free-kick given away at a scrum in Club territory, before Caro bamboozled the DMP defence by stepping in out of the cover for a 12-0 lead on 14 minutes.

At the Northern Echo Arena in the autumn, the Durham side had demolished the Blackheath set-scrum on the way to their big victory, but here it only succeeded in fits and starts. Nevertheless, a strike against the head in the 22nd minute provided a timely reminder, and after fly-half Grant Connon had got the visitors off the mark with a penalty for coming over the top, full-back Henry Robinson came into line at pace to score after inside-centre Tom Hodgson sliced open the Club defence from solid set-piece ball in a beautifully executed move.

Suddenly, Blackheath’s woeful out-of hand kicking returned, and as the visitors returned ball, Connon made ground to swallow his own kick amongst a floundering defence before scrum-half Sam Stuart off-loaded to skipper and outside-centre Cameron Mitchell for a try which, with the conversion, gave the north-easterners a 15-12 lead at the break.

Jack Allcock’s late shoulder charge on Ross may have been designed to unsettle the Club fly-half but his challenge on Ross backfired somewhat for the open-side as Blackheath took advantage of the extra man to re-take the lead.

In the 44th minute, Canty and Owen combined on the right flank to move the hosts into the opposition twenty-two, and as ball sped across field, Markus Burcham’s long pass sent Caro across for his second score. And with James Catt continuing to lead the charge from number-eight, a break from deep inside Club territory saw Griffiths and Caro put Nagle-Taylor clear to race home from 45-metres for a fourth try and a 22-15 advantage.

Again the visitors responded. Line-out ball on 70 minutes, after Blackheath conceded a series of penalties, was moved swiftly across field for replacement wing Malakie Wacokecoke to cross in the right corner, reducing the deficit to just two.

But from a Nik Grier throw at the other end, play moved across in front of the DMP uprights, and with the third Club new-boy Cameron Keenan looking to move ball wide, the replacement scrum-half dummied around the fringes for a try which, with Ross’ conversion, gave Blackheath a nine-point advantage with six minutes remaining, as well as ensuring all three debutants marked the scoresheet.

Lazy tackling allowed DMP left-wing Ben Rath a 60-metre run to the line, salvaging two league points for the visitors, but Connon’s fine conversion from out wide was the final play, and therefore too late to affect the overall outcome.

For Blackheath five points keeps them in fourth place in the National League One table. Next Saturday the Club take a break before returning to action on 28th March with a trip to the north-east to face Tynedale.

Tries: Canty, Caro 2, Nagle-Taylor, Keenan
Conv: Squires, Ross

Darlington Mowden Park
Tries: Robinson, Mitchell, Wacokecoke, Rath
Conv: Connon 2
Pens: Connon

We now have a Blackheath Channel on Grandstand where you can to watch the highlights of this match – click here to find out more.

Graham Cox

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