Old Albanian 24 Blackheath 19

Defeat for Blackheath for the first time in this campaign, inflicted by an Old Albanian side who started well, finished better and, in so doing, leapfrogged the Club to take top spot in National League Two East.

Nevertheless, Blackheath will have left The Woollams, knowing full well they had an iron grip on this contest by the hour-mark, until the rain began to accompany the stiff breeze in their faces, allowing the game to slither from their grasp.

The afternoon didn’t start well. Closure of the M25, and consequent heavy traffic, delayed the Club’s arrival by over an hour and, despite a shift of kick-off to 3.15 pm, a 35-minute warm-up wasn’t ideal.

However, that should take nothing away from OA’s fine start which saw them take a 5-0 lead on eleven minutes as wing Kaz Henderson brushed aside a tackle to sprint to the right corner, before outside-centre Sam Jones finished off.

Blackheath responded as a 15-metre drive off lineout, with Oli Walliker controlling at the base, led to Nick Foster diving across for a converted try against his former club, but a tap-penalty under the uprights, as the Hertfordshire side laid on further pressure, soon had fly-half Alex Noot flying across to restore the hosts’ five-point advantage.

By now the visitors had lost both Freddie Owen and Jake Hennessey to head-knocks, and had Markus Burcham in the sin-bin, but a bright Club debut by Matt Armstrong, and first appearance of the season for Dom McGeekie, looked to galvanise them.

A blatant off-side five-metres out gave Blackheath field position to drive Paul Schroter across to level and, as half-time approached, the blind-side was instrumental again, making the hard-yards, before quick ball was spun to Walliker to finish off, Tom Ffitch’s second conversion giving the Club a 19-12 interval lead.

OAs hardly moved out of their own half of the field during a third quarter which should have seen Blackheath beyond reach.

Three times their scrum forced penalties for not driving straight, Tom Stradwick consistently made inroads, and twice the ball was held up across the goal-line.

However, no addition to their score came and, as the shower arrived, their hold on the game dissolved with it.

OA’s themselves had the ball held up, but the subsequent drop-out saw Noot make a brilliant looping run to release Jones for the equalising score on 64 minutes.

Now, the OA scrum had Blackheath on the back foot, and as a tap-penalty for a high tackle saw ball moved quickly, the hosts once again demonstrated their pace with open-side Kemp Price racing home in the left corner.

There was still time for Blackheath, and as the rain ceased and the sun appeared, they once again had the OA set-scrum in tatters, forcing a further penalty.

However, the wind turned the ensuing lineout into a shambles, and the chance had gone.

Blackheath will re-group for the first-ever visit of Guernsey next Saturday. Kick-off at Well Hall is at 3.00 pm.


Tries: Foster 18, Shroter 32, Walliker 39
Conv: Ffitch 18, 39

Old Albanian

Tries: Jones 11, 64, Noot 23, Price 68
Conv: Jones 23, 64

Attendance: 387

Graham Cox