The Club social side completed the league double over Medway on Saturday at Well Hall, winning 28-15 in conditions which made this game one for the purists. Intermittent showers on top of earlier rain made the going heavy and handling tricky, increasing the pressure on a Blackheath pack with some familiar faces in unfamiliar positions. Matt Jones made his first start at tight-head, Todd Revell and Sim Obonyo came in to the back row, and with no forward replacements, all eight was in the Bandits pack were required for the full 80 minutes. Happily, they were able to gain dominance early on and maintain it for large spells of the match.
Medway took the lead after just a few minutes, however, as fullback Johnny Moore struggled to get his fast feet going in the mud after fielding a long kick, and lost the ball in contact; Medway duly hacked on, regathered and scored the try. From that point on, the Club pack took control, dominating the set-piece and, in particular, using the lineout to great effect. The visiting side rarely competed in the centre of the lineout, and Conor Mitchell’s throws repeatedly found Revell, giving the Bandits a platform from which almost all their points came. The first try was the result of a grinding drive up the pitch in which Medway’s discipline was found wanting, and their forwards toiled unsuccessfully between scrums, rucks and mauls. A player lying across the ball, following a series of penalties, was enough to warrant a yellow card for the visitors, and Blackheath made their numerical advantage count. Fly-half Rob Byrne was rewarded for some fine touch-finding kicks with the Club’s first try, crossing from short range after another penalty was taken swiftly by Nik Dinning. The visitors had little answer to the Blackheath lineout mauls, and the Club penalties continued to come; Mitchell crossed for the first of his tries halfway through the first half and Number 8, Alex Ringshall, extended the Bandits’ lead shortly before the break. A Medway lineout on their 5m line was put under pressure and Ringshall fired through it to intercept the pass back to the fly-half, and dotted the ball down to take the score to 15-5.
Blackheath had another slow start in the second period, and dropped off a few tackles to let Medway back in to the game with a smart try, before resuming the attritional style which had worked so well in the first half. More penalties led to another yellow card, this time for the Medway skipper, and two goals were kicked after spells of Club pressure, by Byrne and inside-centre Sean Collett. Tiredness crept in to the Blackheath 8 late in the second half, but not before they appeared to make the game safe after another maul led to Mitchell’s second try. Medway kept pressing, however, and as the Bandits struggled to clear their lines with 10 minutes left on the clock, the visitors set up a tense finish with another fine try. The Club were forced to defend hard for those last few minutes to keep the gap to more than one score, and the last play of the game resulted in Medway being held up over the line.
There were outstanding efforts throughout the Blackheath team, with the wings Kofi Aburam and James Pierson each fielding difficult kicks and both coming close to scoring at times. Ultimately the victory was carried by the pack, however, and the front row of Mitchell, Jones and Mykea Perry set the platform, controlled the set-piece, and hit and carried hard. Overall, an excellent team performance and plenty of reasons to be pleased and proud.