Blaydon 22 v Blackheath 16
Cold, grey, dank and thoroughly miserable. Conditions were more akin to an afternoon in early winter, and no sign of the warm spring sunshine that, apparently, bathed a vast majority of the country. Nevertheless, conditions which provided a fitting backdrop to an utterly forgettable match!
This was an awful game, marred by countless errors (from both sides, but mainly by the hosts, largely responsible for keeping Blackheath in the contest) and some poor officiating, Wayne Falla’s lack of empathy demonstrated neatly by the late yellow card awarded to Simon Whatling for having the temerity to ask the referee to change his positioning.
That said, there’s no questioning the outcome. Blaydon outscored their visitors by three tries to one, their much-vaunted pack, which had guided the Durham club through an unbeaten ten-match run in the first half of the season, denying Blackheath the quality ball with which to compete throughout.
And it was the hosts’ pack that created the tries as well, two of which came in the first period.
On 13 minutes number-eight Jason Smithson was driven across in the left corner, but the lead was brief as, almost straight from the re-start, Jesse Liston charged down Andy Davies’ kick off the base of a scrum, before regaining possession to romp over for a converted score.
A 40-metre penalty from the reliable Whatling extended the advantage, but Blackheath, who’d lost the services of Mike Canty early on to a shoulder injury, soon found themselves under pressure once more.
Tom Bason’s temporary dismissal for coming in at the side was clear enough, but there was a little more mystery surrounding the yellow card for Dave Allen which quickly followed, as Blaydon lost control of the ball from a third set-scrum on the five-metre line. But against the depleted numbers, a fourth shove forced the penalty try and Blaydon inched into another short-lived lead as Whatling’s second penalty gave Blackheath a 13-12 half-time advantage.
It might have been extended after the re-start, but the Club fly-half’s second long-range attempt at goal struck the upright giving Blaydon the opportunity to counter and set up camp once again in the Blackheath twenty-two. Still, however, the hosts could not find the control and accuracy to make their pressure count and on the occasion the ball was moved wide, Rhys Crane and Peter Homan thwarted the danger.
A brief excursion up-field resulted in a third successful Whatling penalty, but Blackheath were also guilty of handling errors, turning over precious possession, and there was an air of inevitability that a decisive moment would come for the hosts.
Sure enough in the 69th minute, a drive from a set-piece saw Smithson across the goal-line for a second time and finally the Crow Trees crowd (of which only the numerous and incessantly yapping dogs had shown much interest to that point) came to life.
Now the Blaydon pack did what they’d done successfully throughout, kept possession, and as Whatling retreated to the bench, and centre Tom Penny kicked the resultant penalty, ending resistance.
Blackheath will hope for improved conditions, as well as an improved performance, as Ladies’ Day beckons next Saturday. Old Albanian form the opposition at Rectory Field and kick-off is 3.00 pm.
Tries: Smithson 2, Penalty try
Conv: Baggett, Penny
Pens: Whatling 3