BY GRAHAM COX
A fine match and a fine victory for Blackheath who delivered easily their best performance of the season so far to defeat their old rivals Rosslyn Park 29-14 on Saturday in National 1.
The hosts were unbeaten and started the day as league leaders.
True, in the end this win at The Rock may have owed something to Park’s second-half errors, but those mistakes were forced by the Club’s speed and aggression and when the chances came, they were executed with clinical precision.
From the outset, Blackheath looked to attack from deep, particularly through Ben Ransom, Leo Fielding and Craig Dowsett, the latter nearly put away on two minutes by Josh Poole, but for the open-side’s final pass which was adjudged forward.
However, a missed kick to touch by Park on 20 minutes, followed by good ball retention – Danny Herriott and Mike Perks particularly abrasive – made ground through the Park midfield, releasing Markus Burcham on a break, the skipper and inside-centre finding Ransom on his outside for the first try.
Blackheath didn’t have it all their own way. Within two minutes, Park hooker Karl Gibson did brilliantly to squirm through some ineffective tackling to release blind-side Mike MacFarlane for an equalising score.
And the pattern was repeated as Fielding’s chip and chase saw the ball carried back across the home team’s line, forcing a five-metre scrum from which the Club pack won a penalty try as Park collapsed three times, only for turnover ball after the restart, enabling the host pack to ruck their way to the opposition goal-line, number-eight Hugo Ellis diving over for parity at 14-14 at the break.
Nevertheless, the second period saw Blackheath take the initiative and this time not let it go.
A knock-on at the lineout on 57 minutes handed the visitors possession, and as ball found its way to Ransom, the full-back’s kick ahead was weighted beautifully for Jake Lloyd, the wing throwing an inside pass for Tom Burns to crash over.
Moments later, further loose ball was hacked forward from half-way by Perks, and although the hooker was held back, Freddie Owen won the race to touch down the ball in-goal for Blackheath’s fourth try.
More aggressive tackling from Blackheath dislodged ball from Park possession once again, leading to the penalty which allowed Mark Cooke to add three points to his two successful conversions, and although the Roehampton side attacked in the final quarter, lack of control allied with strong defence, denied them any consolation.
A rejuvenated Blackheath return to Well Hall to take on Hull Ionians tomorrow (3 pm).
Not many teams visit Tring and put 44 points on them whilst conceding just 18, but Wimbledon did on Saturday to make it four try-bonus wins out of four and maintain their position at the top of the London & SE Premier League table.
And this was without three injury-enforced changes from last week – but flanker Jack Flanagan and wings Kieran Morris and Harry Tabb proved more than adequate replacements, writes Terry Bagworth.
The only downside was a nasty-looking leg injury to key front rower Bertie Haskins.
Playing up the slope and into a strong wind it was just 10 minutes before the Dons pack proved their dominance and slick handling by the backs saw Morris sprint over for a try. He got a second three minutes later after a turnover in Dons’ own 22 launched a second flowing move.
Good breaks by centre Paul Herndry and scrum-half Blane Wilson, both from their 22, almost yielded more tries but Tring’s defence stood firm.
It was 25 minutes in when Flanagan rounded off some powerful scrimmaging and drives by the pack with try number three.
The strong wind denied fly-half Steve Boatman all three conversions.
Dons host Bedford Athletic tomorrow.