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Humbled in Hertfordshire
Old Albanian 53 v Blackheath 16
In their first visit to The Woollams Playing Fields a little over a year ago, Blackheath found themselves floundering, over two scores in arrears, until, in probably his finest hour in a Club jersey, Rory Teague took a grip and guided his side through 36 unanswered points to win 51-31.
How Director of Rugby Simon Legg must have looked towards the touch-line, where his former fly-half had the misfortune to witness this scrappy, shapeless and desperately unsatisfying contest, and longed for a player of Teague’s genre to marshall his misfiring troops.
Old Albanian do though! Stef Liebenberg has terrorised Blackheath defences on countless occasions, in both OAs and Cambridge colours.
Now, combining with half-back partner Lawrence Rayner, the scrum-half simply binged on the loose nature of this match, seeking to release, not only his backs but also his forwards, and in particular second-row Oghenemaro Itoje, to run all angles at the opposition. No more so than in the final moments when resistance collapsed and converted scores through Chris Lombaard, Michael Allen and a penalty try inflicted late damage to the scoreline.
The warning signs were there from early on, but at least the visitors did enough to keep pace with the hosts in the first period. In fact had better support capitalised on Chris O’Neill’s break in the second minute, Blackheath could have put themselves in the driving seat, but the ball was lost forward and cleared, and within moments a three-on-one move down the right flank released OA’s outside-centre Nathan Earle for the first try.
Blackheath punished the hosts’ early indiscipline by driving Dave Allen across from a line-out, but the Old Boys reclaimed possession straight from the re-start and moved the ball successfully for wing James Spiers to cross, Rayner converting from out wide for a 14-5 lead.
Mike Canty nibbled away at the deficit with two penalties against one from the OA’s fly-half and, in the Club’s best play of the match, Jack Walsh’s quickly taken tap-penalty saw Markus Burcham over the try-line, bringing Blackheath within one-point of the opposition at the end of a half which didn’t see a single successful completion of a set-scrum.
But in the second period Blackheath never got out of the blocks.
Within moments of the re-start, Earle had swept over for his second try. Then, in the 49th minute ball batted back from a line-out was left lying around for OAs’ number-eight Andrew Daish to pick up and run to the goal-line unmolested, Rayner adding the conversion and a penalty for 32-16 advantage.
Not an insurmountable lead, but Blackheath only managed to venture out of their own half of the field at the re-starts, grimly defending until the dam burst in the closing moments.
The Club now return to Rectory Field for two home games prior to Christmas, starting with Wharfedale next Saturday. Kick-off is at 3.00 pm.
Tries: Earle 2, Spiers, Daish, Penalty try, Lombaard, Allen
Conv: Rayner 6
Pens: Rayner 2
Tries: Allen, Burcham
Pens: Canty 2
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