BY GRAHAM COX
Blackheath play their first home match of the new National League One season tomorrow as they host Bishop’s Stortford at Well Hall (3pm).
Having been relegated at the end of the 2021-22 term, the Club clinched promotion from National League Two East in style in the spring.
They won 23 out of their 26 games and scored 158 tries to bounce back to domestic rugby’s third tier at the first time of asking.
With a 36-33 bonus-point win at Taunton last weekend, they could not have wished for a better start to the new campaign.
Blackheath scored six tries at Veritas Park. Four of them came in a 13-minute spell either side of the interval when they, and full-back Jake Hennessey (pictured) in particular, tore up the Taunton defence to turn a nine-point deficit into a 15-point advantage.
With the game seemingly within their grasp, the Club were continually penalised – 11 infringements in the second period alone denying them possession – and it allowed the Somerset side back into the contest, with two late tries setting up a tight finish.
All Blackheath’s tries came from open play. The first, on just five minutes, was scored by Leo Fielding, the left-wing making his return to league duty after long-term injury. He popped up on the right flank after the visitors had turned possession in their own half, and Matt Armstrong had made ground.
Blackheath failed to follow up their kicking game with tight defence and Taunton number eight Sam Prior broke to put fly-half Frankie Dart away in response, only a try-saving tackle from Markus Burcham denied another score from a breakaway.
With the hosts showing patience and discipline in the Club twenty-two, centre Dan Martin crashed across.
Stevie Clark-Leonard went across for Blackheath after Tom Ffitch’s neat pass put Shae Tucker through the midfield.
Titans tight-head Isaac Dalton added Taunton’s third score on 26 minutes which, with Dart’s third conversion, put the hosts 21-12 in front.
With the interval approaching, Hennessey, along with debutants Tucker and Billy Harding, the latter playing out of position in the back-row, set Blackheath ablaze in the warm sunshine.
Props Archie Holland and Will Davis, another of six Club debutants, made inroads for Jack Daly to speed across, before an overthrown Taunton lineout was picked up by Daly, Tucker made a piercing break to release Hennessey out wide for a 24-21 half-time lead.
A deliberate knock-on reduced Taunton to 14 men temporarily after the restart and Blackheath took full advantage.
Hennessey found Daly for the scrum-half’s second and as the full-back found another run deep into opposition territory, Fielding and Armstrong sent Clark-Leonard across for his second also, and on 48 minutes the Club led 36-21.
It was the last time Blackheath really threatened. Taunton’s precision and composure was not quite what it had been in the first period but, with seven minutes remaining, skipper and open-side Charlie Wright drove across from lineout ball.
A fired-up Titans pack drove again, scrum-half Jordan Petherbridge’s lofted pass fell for Dart to score his second try, bringing the hosts within range.
Blackheath saw out time, despite an awkward moment when Ffitch’s late penalty fell wide and Taunton broke from defence.
PICTURE: DEBORAH LLOYD
Subscribe to Blog via Email
Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:
“A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or, please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ