Photos courtesy of Deborah Lloyd
For a second week in a row, Blackheath gained a hard-fought, ground-out, victory against one of their main challengers in National League Two East, and in so doing, made a further stride towards promotion and regaining the place in domestic rugby’s third tier they vacated a year ago.
Like Old Albanian a week earlier, Worthing proved tough opponents with a back division capable of striking from anywhere, and which, in this instance, kept the Sussex side in the lead for a majority of the contest.
However, the Club pack, with Freddie Owen celebrating his 150th appearance, alongside another ‘veteran’ of one and a half centuries of games in red and black, the superb James Catt, kept driving Blackheath over the gain-line to eventually get them home.
Nevertheless, it was initially a man marking exactly double Owen’s achievement that lit up an exuberant Roundstone Lane crowd on this grey February afternoon.
Within two minutes of his 300th appearance in Worthing colours, full-back Matt McLean was gliding across the try-line for the hosts after Connor Slevin’s 50:22 had given them lineout ball.
Scrum ball under the uprights at the other end was moved wide for Alex Brown to send Jake Lloyd across, Jake Hennessey, assuming the kicking duties in the absence of injured Tom Ffitch, adding a fine conversion, but although the penalty count went vastly against Worthing, it was a high tackle against the visitors that allowed McLean to reclaim the lead for the hosts.
Blackheath continued to work through numerous phases, but a stray pass on 35 minutes fell neatly into the hands on Slevin, the Worthing fly-half racing 60-metres to the goal-line unopposed, and although the hosts were reduced to 14-men soon after, Hennessey’s shot at goal slid wide, leaving the visitors trailing 15-7 at the interval.
The one-man advantage was made to count soon after the re-start as Blackheath picked and drove for Ed Taylor to force Archie Holland across for a converted score, but against stubborn resistance the visitors struggled to mount further sustained pressure, despite a fine moment as Chris Bell’s kick and chase turned defence into attack.
However, in the 63rd minute, Ollie Walliker’s flipped pass sent Alex Harris down the right touchline, and as Matt Armstrong was tackled without the ball, the penalty try, Blackheath’s 100th try in 16 games, put the Club ahead.
A reckless challenge at the re-start saw a third yellow card for the hosts, but despite a massive shove against a depleted back, poor control allowed Worthing to come away with the ball, and as Slevin all too easily broke the line, McLean celebrated further with a second try to bring the hosts to within a point.
However, with Markus Burcham making inroads in midfield, and the Blackheath pack, marshalled by Jack Daly, regaining control and retaining possession through the phases, Luc Jeannot drove over for the converted score that gave the Club their four-try bonus, and denied one of their key rivals any consolation.
Next Saturday Blackheath return to Well Hall for the visit of Sevenoaks. Kick off is at 3.00 pm.
Tries: Lloyd 11, Holland 42, Penalty 63, Jeannot 73
Conv: Hennessey 11, 42, 73
Tries: McLean 2, 70, Slevin 35
Conv: McLean 35
Pens: McLean 14
15 . Alex Brown
14 . Jake Lloyd
13 . Jake Hennessey
12 . Markus Burcham
11 . Alex Harris
10 . Chris Bell
9 . Jack Daly
1 . Archie Holland
2 . Ollie Walliker
3 . Andrew Boye
4 . Kaden Pearce-Paul
5 . Ed Taylor (Capt)
6 . Tom Stradwick
7 . Freddie Owen
8 . Tom Baldwin
16 . Alex Witchell
17 . Luc Jeannot
18 . James Catt
19 . Andrew Denham
20 . Matt Armstrong