Rosslyn Park 29 Blackheath 29

Photos courtesy of Deborah Lloyd

A typical local derby between two clubs who have shared a rivalry since the 1880s, scrappy, and a little fractious at times (though never boiling over) but full of drama with honours even at the close.

Undoubtedly, it will be Blackheath who walked away the happier. The last-ditch converted try claimed three league points for the visitors against the side placed third in National League One, though even the most die-hard Rosslyn Park supporter must concede this was a far more enthralling contest than the uninspiring 15-0 victory for the Surrey team at The Utilita in December.

The home faithful would also have been confident of repeating that result, after their side emerged firmly on top at the interval.

As ball went loose at the kick-off, Park open-side and skipper Arthur Ellis broke away, and with play moving across field, right-wing Charlie Walker kicked ahead, and centre Tom Stanton gathered a fortuitous bounce, for a 5-0 lead with significantly under a minute played.

Tom Ffitch pulled three points back for the visitors, but despite Blackheath recycling possession well, the Park defence resisted solidly, giving up little ground.

In the final ten minutes of the half, however, it was Park who launched their first period of sustained pressure, and as the pack picked and drove their way infield, second-row Jordan Martin found the chink in the Club’s ramparts for a converted try and a 12-3 advantage for the hosts.

However, the first 14 minutes after the re-start was to witness a dramatic turnaround.

A huge Blackheath scrum was followed by ball held up across the goal-line, but as pressure was maintained, Tom Stradwick and Ben Charnock made ground, before Leo Fielding came off his wing to finish under the uprights.

Mark Cooke will forever claim his punt forward was always intended as a 50:22, but it gave Blackheath lineout from which Billy Harding peeled blind off a powerful driving maul to score in the corner.

Then, as Park conceded a fifth penalty since the break, the visitors continued to probe the gain-line for Charnock to cross, and with Ffitch adding a second conversion, Blackheath had turned a nine-point deficit into a ten-point lead.

Not for long, however. Four minutes later, Park wing Benji Marfo off-loaded, and full-back Joe Luca Smith found a wonderful break to expose the Club’s midfield, and as a deliberate knock-on handed the hosts a kickable penalty, fly-half Max Craven obliged with the three points that, added to his conversion, brought parity at 22-22.

On 67 minutes, Marfo gathered his own kick forward to ground in-goal for his side’s fourth score, and with Blackheath down to thirteen, having two men in the sin-bin, Park looked to have the game in their grasp.

However, returned to full strength in the closing minutes, Blackheath launched one huge final assault, and as the Club pack crabbed their way infield from a five-metre scrum, Andy Denham, playing out of his usual wing position in the back-row, dived across for the try which salvaged a well-deserved draw.

National League One takes a week off before the final round of fixtures on 27th April, when Blackheath host relegation-threatened Taunton. Kick-off at The Utilita is at 3.00 pm.

Rosslyn Park

Tries: Stanton 1, Martin 37, Smith 57, Marfo 67
Conv: Craven 37, 57, 67
Pens: Craven 65


Tries Fielding 46, Harding 49, Charnock 53, Denham 80
Conv: Ffitch 46, 53, 80
Pens: Ffitch 20

Attendance: 787

Blackheath Team

15 . Jake Hennessey
14 . Jake Lloyd
13 . Markus Burcham
12 . Mark Cooke
11 . Leo Fielding
10 . Tom Ffitch
9 . Jack Daly

1 . Archie Holland
2 . Billy Harding
3 . Henry Paul
4 . Tom Stradwick
5 . Ed Taylor (Capt)
6 . Paul Schroter
7 . Andy Denham
8 . Ben Charnock

16 . Alex Witchell
17 . Will Davis
18 . Jack Owlett
19 . George Daly
20 . Matt Armstrong

Graham Cox