Birmingham Moseley 5 Blackheath 9 – Low scoreline doesn’t reflect entertainment value

BY GRAHAM COX

A game played on a dank, murky November afternoon, on a sticky pitch with defences firmly on top.

However, don’t be mistaken into thinking this was some drab, low-scoring affair. This was a National League 1 contest as close as they come between two fiercely competitive sides, without the superfluous incentive of bonus points.

In the end it came down to kicking, lots of kicking, but in particular the place-kicking of Blackheath’s Mark Cooke who slotted three from three, all from long-range, while Moseley’s equivalents failed with four shots, including the conversion to the only try of the match.

The Club fly-half’s first strike came in only the seventh minute, as the Birmingham side illegally placed hands in the ruck, and signalled a period of dominance where the visitors should have taken a more decisive lead.

However, possession was turned over in the maul following a close-range lineout, and when loose ball hacked on, and Moseley were forced into conceding a five-metre put-in, instead of utilising their superior scrum to the full, Blackheath chose to move play with the resultant knock-on in midfield.

The incessant drizzle that continued to sweep across Billesley Common hampered both sides’ handling, but Moseley eventually broke the stranglehold only to see both Ben Palmer and full-back Cliff Hodgson miss with long-range goal attempts, leaving Blackheath 3-0 ahead at the break.

It was Blackheath’s turn to be under pressure after the restart, the Club’s defence twice forcing Moseley to lose possession while driving forward, and pinching a lineout, but on 52 minutes the solitary try came and, ironically, it came from deep.

Moseley were fortunate when a clearance was fumbled in their own half of the pitch, but outside-centre Mason Tonks launched the move that swept up field with more than a hint of a couple of forward passes and ended with second row Danny Wright crossing in the left corner unopposed.

Cooke’s second strike restored the visitors’ advantage a few minutes later and when a further three points were added from some 40 metres – after the Moseley scrum collapsed under pressure from the Club front-row of Tom Williams, Mike Perks and Danny Herriott – Blackheath looked back in the driving seat.

However, Palmer began to find his range as the Mose fly-half’s final effort at goal, when Blackheath fell offside at the ruck, struck the crossbar, causing momentary panic.  And as Moseley camped in opposition territory for the final minutes, tireless skipper Markus Burcham, and an outstanding debut from Dan Lamb coming on at hooker, led a superb defensive effort to see out time and claim a hard-fought victory.

Blackheath return to home soil to take on visitors Rotherham on Saturday (3pm).

PICTURE BY SEAN GOSLING

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