Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
Club thwarted at the death
Blackheath 27 Old Albanian 32.
A thrilling contest with little to separate the two sides throughout and the result only determined at the very death.
Liam Gibson’s try in the 67th minute had brought Blackheath back to parity, and now with the momentum favouring the hosts, the Club looked the more likely to take maximum points.
However, the Old Albanian backs, and in particular outside-centre Terry Adams, had proved a handful all game, slicing holes in the Club’s defence, and as the match moved into added time the visitors found themselves in the ascendancy.
Blackheath’s defence had been resolute a week earlier at Wharfedale, but in the final play of this match it was breached for the fifth time as OA’s number-eight Matt Chambers burst through for the winning score.
‘We knew it was going to be hard, especially up front against the Blackheath pack, but in the second half we stepped up to the mark,’ said OA’s scrum-half and vice-captain Stef Liebenberg.
‘It means a lot to us to come to a place like Rectory Field and win in our first season at this level. We can build on this and our victory last week against Fylde, and chase down Esher in fourth spot.’
And sure enough OA did have to step up after Blackheath had stolen the early initiative.
With both teams looking to play expansively on this cold but dry afternoon, the Club soon found their pack driving 30-metres through the midfield before centre Dave Bonner crossed.
Lawrence Rayner quickly answered with a penalty for the visitors, but in the 16th minute Jack Walsh suddenly tore open the opposition defence, and facing a three-man overlap, a deliberate knock-on led to a penalty try and a 14-3 lead for the hosts.
Nevertheless, Walsh’s sin-binning a few minutes later turned the tide. Without their scrum-half Blackheath fumbled scrum ball on their own goal-line for OA’s blind-side Billy Johnson to rampage over. Then, in the 34th minute, a beauty of a flat pass from James Shanahan sent Rayner through the cover for a try, the full-back adding his second conversion.
Back to their full quota though, Blackheath turned up the wick once more, and as the pack picked and drove towards the goal-line, the ball was moved wide for Bonner’s second score and 19-17 lead.
Club fly-half Rory Teague extended the advantage by three points after the break, but straight from the re-start the visitors hit back.
First Chambers scored, as the OA pack went through the phases, and then in the 57th minute, wing Chris May cut a gap in the Club defence, sending Chris Lombaard over in the right corner for a five point lead.
Brett McNamee was sent to the sin-bin for the visitors, but Blackheath failed to take advantage initially as they fluffed ball from a five-metre scrum. But with 13 minutes remaining David Dunne found a lovely off-load to send Gibson across and set up the tightest of finishes.
‘You get what you deserve,’ said a philosophical Club performance director Yusuf Ibrahim.
‘Ultimately they converted their chances and we didn’t and for that they thoroughly warranted their victory.’
Next Saturday Blackheath face the long journey to the north-east to take on second-placed Blaydon at Crow Trees, kick-off 2.00 pm.
Tries: Bonner 2. Penalty try, Gibson.
Conv: Teague 2.
Tries: Johnson, Rayner, Chambers 2, Lombaard.
Conv: Rayner 2.