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Old Albanians 31-51 Blackheath
A comfortable margin of victory in the end, but a final tally that hides a truth that for much of this contest it was Old Albanians that held sway, at least in terms of the score. And, arguably, in terms of ascendancy, after a first period that ended with them 24-12 ahead.
"Old Albanians were magnificent and outplayed us in every department in the first period," said Blackheath performance director Yusuf Ibrahim.
"We needed someone to lead from the front and it was (second-row) Gethin Davies who stepped up to the mark.
"It was a great team performance and I’m really proud of our boys today but Gethin’s display was inspirational, especially given it was his first top-level game for over a year."
Indeed, with the hosts having extended their lead to 16-points going into the final 25 minutes, it took the best efforts of the Club pack, allied to some outstanding kicking from Rory Teague, the fly-half finishing with 21-points to his name, to wrestle back control.
Drilling the touch-lines and dominating the line-out the visitors began to control possession and territory, first forcing loose-head James Cleverly over, before hooker Gavin O’Meara crossed to bring Blackheath within two-points.
Teague missed with a 45m strike for goal, but Club’s pivotal man made the crucial break with just eight minutes to go for 18-year old Tom O’Flaherty, in his first outing at scrum-half, to set up the match-winning try for Davies.
A long-range drop-goal from Teague moved Blackheath clear before a second try for Geoff Griffiths, and then fellow-centre Richard Windsor brought up the half century.
It didn’t look like it would end that way at the interval.
From the moment OA’s wing Chris May intercepted Windsor’s flat pass and scampered away for the first try in the fifth minute, the hosts looked sharper with ball in hand.
Teague levelled proceedings with a try soon after in Blackheath’s first serious assault, but Club’s handling let them down, and scrum-half Stef Liebenberg’s quick-tap on his own 22 sent flanker Billy Johnson over before James Shanahan’s long pass found Oliver Marchon for a 24-7 advantage.
Blackheath raised their game enough to stretch the OA’s defence for Griffiths’ first try just prior to the interval, and then Teague added a penalty, but a neat inside pass sent Sam Collins racing over on 54 minutes, keeping the Old Boys out in front.
However, it was the last time the Hertfordshire side threatened, and Davies led the charge for 36 unanswered points and Blackheath’s victory.
Blackheath are now up to third position in SSE National League One and return to Rectory Field next Saturday to face Blaydon who lie one place behind the Club on the same number of points.
The match, which is a 3pm kick-off, will also be part of Blackheath’s annual Family Fun Day. Admission is £12 (accompanied U16s free of charge).