Photos courtesy of Lou from Henley
A sunny, unseasonably warm afternoon close to the banks of the Thames, and a hard-fought, physical encounter that, while perhaps not matching the beauty of the surrounds, remained tense and absorbing throughout.
With just one point separating the two sides, in third and first places respectively, in National League Two East at the start of the day, this was always likely to prove a key test and, sure enough, Blackheath, who had been rattling in tries at an average of seven per match, were denied that luxury, Henley instead giving their defence a thorough examination.
However, the Club did manage two tries, both in the opening period, and it proved enough set them on the road to this important win.
On eight minutes, Tom Baldwin stretched to his full extent at the rear of the lineout, and four phases later, it was the number-eight himself burrowing over and grounding the ball, Tom Ffitch’s conversion giving the visitors a 7-0 lead.
A penalty for not driving straight at the scrum allowed Henley fly-half Max Titchener to pull three-points back for the hosts, and when Archie Holland was temporarily removed for collapsing, the depleted Club pack needed to dig deep to turn over possession at the maul.
It wasn’t only the forwards. Twice Jack Daly was required to make potentially try-saving tackles on Rhyan Scott-Young after the Henley wing flew down the right flank.
However, in the 27th minute, Tom Stradwick found a great line to open up the hosts’ defence, and as the ball was kept alive, Ollie Claxton showed superb skills to step away from a tackle and release Jake Lloyd, the Club wing also demonstrating fine finishing in the right corner.
Titchener struck again as Stradwick recorded the visitors’ second yellow card, this time for a high tackle, reducing the arrears to 12-6 at the interval, and with the Oxfordshire side applying more pressure after the re-start, the Club again had to turn over ball with reduced numbers.
Back to full strength, and with Charlie MacCallum and Kaden Pearce-Paul off the bench, Blackheath’s set-piece increased in dominance, but the fine-tuning in attack was absent and, frustratingly, handling errors, a penalty for holding-on, and ball held-up across the goal-line, frustrated the visitors’ efforts and left the game delicately poised.
However, Ffitch’s penalty strike for off-side on the hour pushed the advantage beyond a converted score, and with Henley unable to establish any further territorial pressure, Blackheath saw time out.
Next Saturday, Blackheath return to Well Hall for the visit of North Walsham. Kick-off is at 3.00 pm.
Pens: Titchener 12, 39
Tries: Baldwin 8, Lloyd 28
Conv: Ffitch 8
Pens: Ffitch 60
15 . Tom Ffitch
14 . Jake Lloyd
13 . Lewis Hollidge
12 . Markus Burcham
11 . Alex Harris
10 . Oli Claxton
9 . Jack Daly
1 . Archie Holland
2 . Oli Walliker
3 . Andrew Boye
4 . James Catt
5 . Ed Taylor (Capt)
6 . Tom Stradwick
7 . Paul Schroter
8 . Tom Baldwin
16 . Brendan McMillan
17 . Charlie MacCallum
18 . Dom McGeekie
19 . Kaden Pearce-Paul
20 . Andy Denham