Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
Club hang on after Student fight back
Loughborough Students 43 v Blackheath 50
It’s not often a team builds up a 37-point lead only to find themselves hanging on grimly at the death, but that’s the fate that befell Blackheath in this remarkable match.
Club supporters who made the trip to Leicestershire on this glorious autumnal afternoon in the East Midlands witnessed some of best rugby performed by their side for a while in a memorable opening period, only to find their collective hearts racing as added time in the second half entered its eighth minute, for which credit must go to a Students side whose heads never dropped.
But for the first 40-minutes Blackheath were simply majestic. An unkind bounce at the kick-off handed possession to Loughborough who, like Fylde had done a week earlier at Rectory Field, probed a resolute Club defence in the opening moments.
This time, however, Mike Canty moved up quickly to intercept a pass out wide and the full-back was away, sprinting a full eighty metres unmolested to the try-line for a converted score.
Alex Davis responded with the Students’ only points of the first period, but as the re-start was fumbled into touch for a Blackheath line-out, the ball was moved back and forth across field, Gavin O’Meara cut a line towards the uprights, and Jack Walsh dummied over for a 12-3 lead.
Two David Marshall penalties sandwiched a try from Tom Stradwick (playing at number-eight in a revamped back-row with Richard Paddick, Dave Allen and James Catt all missing) after Canty had taken possession in his own half, Markus Burcham and Lee Covington combining to rip open the Students’ midfield, and then Marshall himself found a perfect long miss-pass to send Liam Gibson over in the right corner.
Then, as half-time approached, the best of the lot as Geoff Griffiths hit Simon Whatling’s beautifully off-loaded inside ball at pace for the left-wing to race home from 40-metres, scoring the Club’s fifth try which, with Marshall adding a third conversion, saw the Club with a 37-3 lead at the break.
However, in each of the three previous league games Blackheath have fallen away after the interval and here again they emerged from the changing room well below the high levels they’d set in the first period, despite the benefit of the Towers Way slope now their favour.
Marshall’s third penalty extended the advantage within seconds of the re-start but, fortified with a couple of replacements from the bench, the Students quickly began their resurgence.
A lovely off-load from centre George Eastwell sent prop Harry Elrington over the try-line, and by the 48th minute the score was already looking more respectable after full-back Jack Pons began a fine passing move for back-row Ben Pons to go over.
Untidy line-out ball from the Students enabled Blackheath to press again, and as Canty and Tom Bason pierced into the hosts’ twenty-two, a three-man overlap saw Nick Winwood feed Gibson for the wing to squeeze in at the right corner for his second try.
However, two tap-penalties following the dismissal of Jessie Liston enabled second-row Ed Taylor to score, and as the Students kept the ball alive, stretching the Club’s defence, the tackles finally melted away and Jack Pons crossed out wide.
Davies struck two more excellent conversions and suddenly the deficit was reduced to a mere 16-points.
Blackheath regained some control and in the 66th minute a second brief interlude in the one-way tide occurred as Marshall found a neat grubber-kick for Griffiths to latch on to and dive across, bringing up the Club’s half-century (a feat Blackheath also achieved in their previous league visit to the university campus a year ago).
But drama was yet to come. Loughborough have excelled this season under head coach and former Club hooker Dave Morris, lying second only to Doncaster Knights in the SSE National League One table at the start of the day, and now their big pack took control forcing a penalty try as the Blackheath scrum collapsed beneath the uprights.
And then, with the Club’s defence in disarray as the Students continued demonstrate fine handling skills, space opened up for impressive tight-head Akinbiyi Alo to rampage over for the hosts’ sixth try.
Victory for the Students was never likely, but with Davies adding another excellent conversion and six minutes remaining on the referee’s watch, a draw was a very real possibility. However, somehow the visitors managed to deny the opposition any further possession and as Tom Davis signalled the 80 minutes were up, James Munton hoofed the ball to touch to the relief of Blackheath and their faithful travelling support.
Blackheath return to Rectory Field next Saturday when they take on Tynedale. Kick-off is at 3.00 pm.
Tries: Elrington, Pons (Ben), Taylor, Pons (Jack), Penalty, Alo
Conv: Davis 5
Tries: Canty, Walsh, Stradwick, Gibson 2, Griffiths 2
Conv: Marshall 3
Pens: Marshall 3
Comments are closed on this article.