BLACKHEATH RFC 27 vs PLYMOUTH ALBION RFC 32
Albion made the 500 mile round trip to South East London looking to extend the 3 match winning sequence earned before the Christmas break and with Blackheath sitting in second position in National League 1 after a good start in 2018 it was always going to be a difficult road trip.
In dry conditions, the game started with a period of immediate pressure from a very hungry looking Blackheath forward unit. They were camped in the Albion 22 for prolonged periods but managed to knock the ball on at the final stages of the attack. This was due, in part to a determined effort from the Albion defensive effort. However on the 20th minute, the pressure was too much and Blackheath were awarded a penalty in a kickable position for an Albion infringement at the ruck.
Full Back Joseph Tarrant stepped up and slotted the penalty, giving Blackheath the lead midway through the first half. The lead didn’t last long though with a superb try from Josh Skelcey on his return from injury after a long lay off. Blackheath were penalised for offside and Fly Half Connor Eastgate dispatched the ball to touch on the 22. From the resulting line out, Albion secured good possession through Skipper Herbie Stupple, who distributed beautifully to put Skelcey in for Albion’s first try. Matt Shepherd added the extras to give Albion a 3-7 lead with 25 minutes gone.
Albion’s first try was a good one, but it was their next that set the tone for the remainder of the first half. Blackheath coughed up possession on 28 minutes on the half way line, which was pounced upon by a rampant Albion pack, the ball was sent out wide for winger Jordan Gott to cross in the corner to add to Albion’s advantage. Shepherd couldn’t add the conversion.
On 34 minutes, Albion lost influential flanker George Mills to injury, to be replaced by Kieran Westlake. On 38 minutes, Luke Chapman was forced to leave the field due to a shoulder injury, to be replaced by Will Norton.
Blackheath then enjoyed a period of good possession and territory, putting pressure on the Albion defensive line, eventually the pressure told, with Scrum Half Cameron Setter receiving a Yellow Card for a deliberate knock on which resulted in referee Jonathan Cook striding under the posts to award a penalty try. This was the last action of an intriguing first half.
Plymouth Albion. 12
The second half started as the first had ended with another Albion player retiring early due to injury, try scorer Jordan Gott being replaced by Dan Powell to add to the injury woes.
Albion still persevered though, getting good possession in the opposition 22, after 4 phases, Blackheath crept offside and Albion were awarded a kickable penalty, which Shepherd converted with ease increasing the Albion lead.
The penalty was followed by another well worked try, courtesy of Shepherd on 50 minutes. The conversion from out wide was missed. Less than 5 minutes later, Albion were pressurising the Blackheath defensive line, and after multiple phases, Dean Squire crossed in the corner after some quick hands and clever running lines. Shepherd managed to bounce the ball off the upright of the post, missing the conversion.
Blackheath then had a period of sustained possession which Albion coped with well until the 63rd minute when replacement prop George Davis barged over for his teams second try, the conversion was missed by Tarrant who didn’t have a great day with the boot. This signalled the start of an attritional battle in the midfield during which both teams had good periods of possession.
It was Blackheath who came through that period on top, with a well worked try from Second Row Neale Patrick on 68 minutes, who was the grateful recipient of a well weighted pass to go in under the sticks. Tarrant duly converted and Blackheath were in the lead. 27-25.
On 71 minutes, Albion were handed a lifeline with Blackheath’s Jake Lloyd seeing Yellow for a technical foul. This allowed Albion the opportunity to pile on the pressure in the closing stages.
Albion enjoyed phase after phase of possession and their pack edged closer to the Blackheath try line, but it wasn’t the forwards who profited. Dan Mugford, another player returning from a prolonged spell of injury took a majestic pass over the top of 3 waiting Albion players, to cross in the corner and secure the bonus point win for Albion, making it 4 from 4 and ensuring a winning start to 2019.
Shepherd added the extras from out wide to put the cherry on top.
Talking after the match, Head Coach Kieran Hallett was delighted with his teams performance, “we were much better in the second half. We adapted well to the opposition and to the loss of key players to injury. The last 5 minutes was a bit of a worry as I thought we had missed our last opportunity to win the game, but to secure the win in the final play of the match is superb”
Albion face another difficult trip next weekend to Ampthill, but with 4 wins in the bank, confidence should be high.
Albion: Skelcey, Gott, Shepherd, Squire, Mugford
Blackheath: Tarrant, Davis, Patrick, Penalty Try
Albion: Shepherd 2
Blackheath: Tarrant 1
Albion: Shepherd 1
Blackheath: Tarrant 1
Albion: Setter (38 mins)
Blackheath: Lloyd (71 mins)
Referee: Dr Jonathan Cook