Rosslyn Park 12 v Blackheath 15
Having taken the scalp of one high flying Surrey side a week ago, Blackheath can now lay claim to an even bigger one.
Rosslyn Park came in to this match lying a mere three points short of Doncaster Knights and full of confidence after their six-try, 45-3 romp to victory at Wharfedale. Now, however, with Park beaten on home soil at The Rock for the first time this term, and with Fylde also suffering a surprise reversal at Tynedale, there’s clear daylight between the league leaders and the other promotion contenders, and assistance from elsewhere will be required if any of the chasing sides are to overhaul the Yorkshiremen.
But it’s the other end of the SSE National League One that concerns Blackheath and it doesn’t take a long look at the table to realise the peril the Club would be if it hadn’t been for the nine points gleaned since the dismal showing at Tynedale a fortnight ago.
With renewed confidence following the 38-10 humbling of Esher at Rectory Field the previous week, the Club began this contest positively enough, twice turning over Park ball in their own half of field, only to lose possession going forward, as both sides’ handling suffered after a light shower prior to kick-off had added to the already sodden conditions.
However, it wasn’t long before Park served notice, with their first attack stretching the Blackheath defence, and as a scrum was won five-metres out, ball was moved blind for right-wing Charlie Broughton to score the opening try in the tenth minute.
Simon Whatling could have responded immediately but saw his penalty attempt drift wide, followed by a further long-range effort dying just short of the crossbar in the 29th minute. But the stand-off, along with Jack Walsh, were, arguably, to have their best game as Blackheath’s half-back pairing and, as the visitors continued to dominate the game territorially, both were instrumental in the try that gave parity.
On 33 minutes, as Walsh scurried through a gap around a ruck on half-way, making 20-metres, Whatling found a beauty of a high, looping pass to where Hamish Graham (called to the starting line-up after James Tincknell was recalled by parent club London Scottish) found space to race along the right touch-line and score.
Had a deliberate knock-on ten-metres from the goal-line not gone unpunished, Blackheath might have held a deserved lead instead of finding themselves level at 5-5 at the break, but the start of the second period once again saw Park take the initiative.
If there was one area in which the hosts held the upper hand it was the set-scrum, two mighty shoves having the Club reeling on their own goal-line, and as the visitors tried to play themselves out of trouble, a third set-piece was conceded from which the penalty try was awarded giving Park a 12-5 lead.
Now, surely, Alex Codling’s mighty pack, who held a massive weight advantage, would simply steamroll their lighter opposition, but instead it was Blackheath’s more mobile forwards who gained the edge.
Two minutes following Park’s second try, backchat brought a penalty within range, this time Whatling obliging, and as the hosts continued to infringe, Blackheath’s fly-half kicked his side to within range of the goal-line.
Twice in the first period Park had resisted a Blackheath maul, but now with second-row Richard Boyle in the sin-bin, Tom Bason, on his 200th appearance in a Club jersey, took Gavin O’Meara’s throw for Dave Allen to drive over for the open-side’s twelfth try of the season, Whatling finding his range again with the conversion.
There were opportunities for both sides in the 23 minutes that remained, Blackheath losing another attacking line-out chance, while Park fluffed two at the other end, the visitors scrambling the ball back on their own side on one occasion in the dying moments.
A yellow card for Cai Griffiths saw Blackheath down to 14-men for the final six minutes, but somehow the Club defence remained resolute, and although there will further big challenges before Simon Legg and his team can breathe easy, they can allow themselves a brief moment of celebration.
Only, however, until the visit of Coventry next Saturday. Kick-off at Rectory Field is 3.00 pm.
Tries: Broughton, Penalty try
Tries: Graham, Allen