Blaydon 20 v Blackheath 21
An excellent performance from stand-in fly-half David Dunne saw Blackheath sneak away from Tyneside with the narrowest of victories against the side lying in second-place in National League One.
Unbeaten at Crow Trees since 6th October, Blaydon led for 63 minutes of this contest and it seemed inevitable for the most part that at any moment they would wrap up their 16th win of the term to keep the pressure on Ealing Trailfinders.
Sure enough, had the hosts scored through the two gilt-edged chances they created either side of the break, one ending in a knock-on and the other a forward pass, they would have been out of sight. And even if they’d managed to convert just one of the tries they did score, they’d still have edged home.
But missing the in-form Andy Baggett at fly-half, all Blaydon’s kicks missed their mark (although the final one muddied the upright); while at the other end Dunne slotted four from six, adding to some fine line-kicking and enabling Blackheath to step through a wide-open door and burgle all the goodies.
Overall Blackheath were far from their best though. Too often the visitors allowed themselves to be stripped of possession and they frequently fell foul of referee Wayne Falla’s rigorous policing of the off-side line.
Indeed both sides would claim to be below par with a lengthy list of absentees through England Counties call-ups and injury, but it was Blaydon who looked least affected, producing some fine handling and continuity to send second-row Shaun English over, followed by scrum-half Jordi Pasqualin-Herrera crossing on the blind-side of a five-metre scrum, Dunne’s first penalty having given Blackheath an early lead.
However, with Tom Stradwick in charge in place of injured skipper Tom Bason, the Club pack gradually worked the visitors back into the contest and on 23 minutes a five-metre line-out set up the platform for Truman Sullivan (starting at open-side with Dave Allen joining Rory Teague on international duty in Cork) to drive over to level the scores at 10-10.
Parity was short-lived though. A couple of silly penalties allowed Blaydon the opportunity to go through the phases to work wing Thomas Banks over for a third try and with the hosts rampant in the period leading up to the interval, Blackheath were fortunate to arrive at the interval a mere five points in arrears.
Having missed the match at Ealing, Mike Canty re-joined Blackheath’s casualty list, allowing Rob Alexander an opportunity to mark a First XV debut with a couple of vital tackles, but although Dunne added his second penalty, the Club couldn’t stop Blaydon scoring a fourth try as ruck ball was moved for inside-centre Samuel Hanks to pierce the defence.
But still the Durham club couldn’t pull away and suddenly the tide turned as Blackheath spotted their chance and, fortified by the arrival of James Cleverly, Jon West and Lee Covington from the bench, the Club moved up through the gears.
In the 70th minute Dunne again hit the target to narrow the deficit to just four points, and with the Club fly-half controlling field position, and the Blaydon line-out in complete disarray, the visitors found themselves in the ascendancy.
With eight minutes remaining ball was moved swiftly across field, and as Richard Lankshear hit Dunne’s pass at pace and broke through the defensive line, Sean Moan took possession on the inside to crash over for the winning score.
Next Saturday Blackheath return to home territory to take on Cinderford, one place above the Club in the SSE National League One table. Kick off at Rectory Field is 3.00 pm.
Tries: English, Pasqualin-Herrera, Bank, Hanks.
Tries: Sullivan, Moan.
Pens: Dunne 3.