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Hull Ionians 12-36 Blackheath
NEVER a pretty game, the conditions would not allow for that, but the comfortable bonus point victory Blackheath sought as they continue in their progress towards SSE National League One safety.
Hull Ionians had roared to the National Two North title last term, winning 28 of their 30 matches along the way.
But the transition to Level Three has proved a shock to the men from the East Riding, and with a very opposite record of only two victories to date, a quick return to the lower division now looks almost certain.
Nevertheless, their 17-7 success at Yorkshire rivals Wharfedale the week before, as well as a very creditable draw at Blaydon last month, showed they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
But despite a few wobbles early on, there were few moments of crisis as Blackheath marched on to a fourth consecutive success.
Indeed, Club even negated the one major area of Ionians’ strength with some mighty scrummaging of their own, Jamie Kilbane and Des Brett again in top form, but the vicious crosswind which dominated the afternoon - and which made it bitterly cold for spectators - was soon having an impact.
Simon Whatling saw a penalty blown away from touch and even accurate passing was tested, as evidenced when an intercept took play from the Ionians’ goal-line deep into Club territory.
As the visitors conceded the put-in for accidental offside, the hosts were able to keep up the pressure to drive Mark Wigham across for the opening try in the 13th minute.
But as the Blackheath pack responded by driving deep into opposition territory, the Ionians’ blind-side became villain as he headed for the sin-bin for killing the ball at the tackle, Dave Allen mauling over from the resultant lineout for parity.
Blackheath successfully countered another drive from a close range throw, while frequently turning over possession, none more so than Richard Windsor playing on the right-wing, and testing the Yorkshiremen’s defence around the fringes with Tom Stradwick, Richard Pike and James Catt hitting short passes at pace.
Jack Walsh caught Hull cold in the 38th minute with a quickly-taken tap penalty just inside halfway releasing Whatling through for a try.
And with the hosts still recovering, James Tincknell latched onto a neat inside pass to slice open the Ionians’ defence once again.
Dante Mama, taking over goal-kicking duties from a hobbling Whatling, added both conversions for a 19-5 lead at the break.
Two further tries within 11 minutes of the restart would put the result beyond doubt.
Stradwick made the hard yards towards the goal line before a ruck out wide saw Tom Bason demonstrate wonderful skill, dummying a one-handed pass, as he raced around on the blind-side for the bonus point score.
And moments later Walsh once again exposed a flaky defence, as he drifted along the three-quarter line before locating a suitable hole to dash through and under the uprights, the lead stretching to 31-5.
Ionians rallied enough to force Gavin O’Meara to the sin-bin.
Despite a couple of false starts with a wayward throw which was hardly surprising with the wind, and an accidental offside before driving nNo 8 Alex Campbell over, scum-half Isaac Green landing the kick of the day with the conversion out wide into the teeth of the gale.
But the last word fell to the visitors as Allen wrestled over from a lineout, the open-side’s 14th try of the season, and although the game drifted and lost shape in the final 10 minutes, Blackheath could be satisfied with their afternoon’s work.
Blackheath’s Kent Cup tie at Deal & Betteshanger, scheduled for next Saturday, has been postponed to March 15 due to the London Two SE side having to play a rearranged league fixture, leaving Club with a free weekend.
However, this Wednesday a Blackheath XV will play a London Welsh XV at Well Hall, kick-off 8pm.