1:59pm Sunday 19th February 2012
By Graham Cox
Barking 23 Blackheath 29.
On a filthy afternoon made for forward-dominated rugby, it was inevitably the Club pack, and in particular their well-drilled line-out, that laid the platform for this hard-fought victory over near-neighbours Barking.
From the outset, Blackheath had their counterparts retreating at the set-scrum, their dominance in the early stages leading to the first penalty on eight minutes. Sam Windsor kicked to touch, and with hooker Gavin O’Meara, outstanding in both set-piece and the loose, finding his line-out targets well in awkward conditions, flanker Dave Allen was driven across for the opening try, Windsor adding a decent conversion against the strong breeze.
Barking knew Blackheath would hold the edge up front and it was to their credit that they chose to counter by moving the ball quickly in the wind and rain. On 18 minutes outside-centre Andrew Henderson broke into Club territory, creating the overlap for wing Stephen Hihetah to cross, and although a mirror image of his first effort saw Allen cross for his 18th try of the season soon after, a Craig Ratford penalty on the stroke of half-time ensured the Essex side kept in touch at 8-12.
However, the start of the second period saw the visitors pull away with a lead that ultimately settled the contest in their favour – just!
With Neil Dewale returning to the Club second-row, and proving particularly disruptive, Blackheath turned over ball on a Barking throw, and as the visitors took play to the hosts’ goal-line scrum-half Ben Ibrahim dummied his way over. Then, in the 51st minute, ball secured from another line-out was moved blind for wing James Stephenson to dive across in the corner.
Sam Windsor added two fine conversions from out wide to stretch the lead to 18 points but once again it proved the signal for the hosts to up their game.
The ball passed through numerous hands before space was made for right-wing Will Nelson to cross in easily the best move of the match, and when scrum-half Tom Parker dived over from a quick tap-penalty on 61 minutes for a converted try, Barking were back in striking range.
A Sam Windsor penalty gave Blackheath some breathing space with a nine-point cushion, and although Ratford responded with three points for the hosts with six minutes remaining, with hail now hammering into their faces, Barking couldn’t find the control to produce another attack.
SSE National League One takes another break next Saturday with the next round of the Six Nations. Blackheath’s next league match sees them take on Cambridge at Rectory Field on Saturday 3rd March, kick-off 3.00 pm.
Barking Tries: Hihetah, Nelson, Parker Conv: Ratford Pens: Ratford 2.
Blackheath Tries: Allen 2, Ibrahim, Stephenson Conv: Windsor (Sam) 3 Pens: Windsor (Sam)
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