Cooke a vital ingredient in Blackheath victory over Plymouth Albion

BLACKHEATH 29
PLYMOUTH ALBION 19
BY GRAHAM COX AT WELL HALL

An enthralling game from start to finish, with both sides playing their part, using the fine conditions to good effect.

Albion outscored their hosts three tries to two, but for the second week running Mark Cooke produced a perfect kicking performance, the fly-half striking two conversions and five penalties in a 19-point haul.

The last shot, for a high tackle on 67 minutes, five metres in from the right touchline, put Blackheath more than a score ahead and closed out the game.

“We struggled with goal-kicking early in the season – it lost us tight games – but this was another good display,” said Club head coach James Shanahan. “Our tactical kicking and game management from Cookie and Stef [Liebenberg] was also very good, particularly in the first half going into the wind.

“We lacked accuracy and were a little below par with our speed, but credit to Plymouth, they put us under pressure at the breakdown.  Our lineout wasn’t great, but our scrum was outstanding and won us penalties. That was what saw us over the line.”

Tom Williams was magnificent in that department.  In fact, the very first scrum had Albion going backwards and got Blackheath on to the front foot straight away as a penalty was kicked to touch.

Play moved across field from the lineout and Cooke’s chip over the defence was met by Leo Fielding, the full-back finding a lovely off-load for Tom Baldwin to race down the left touchline for the first try on seven minutes.

Albion responded quickly as their lineout put them on the goal-line, and from the second of two tap-penalties, skipper and open-side George Mills was driven over for a converted score.

Cooke added the first of his penalties, for offside at the ruck, before notching up another two points after Fielding had come up into the line once more for Nick Foster to show blistering pace and strength down the touchline to score.

Another penalty, this time for offside, moved Blackheath further ahead, but a rare scrum infringement against the Club gave Albion the field position from which they went through the phases to drive hooker Jamie Salter under the uprights, Connor Eastgate’s conversion bringing the score to 20-14 at the interval.

Plymouth got within a point on 49 minutes as left-wing Alex Ducker emerged from halfway and created a wonderful mazy run for a fine score, but Cooke slotted another three from in front of the posts a couple of minutes later to ease Blackheath away once more.

The lineout continued to thwart Blackheath early in the second period but a successful throw on the hour gave the Club an attack from which a no-arms tackle gave them a further penalty before Cooke’s 67th-minute effort moved the hosts 10 points clear.

Two league points would still be Albion’s reward if they could cross the try-line in the closing stages, but Blackheath’s defence held firm for the remaining minutes.

“The scrum dominance that Blackheath exerted gave them a real foothold in the game,” said Albion head coach James Scaysbrook. “And on the back of that we made too many errors in midfield and attack.

“But there was no lack of effort from any of our players, and they all kept pushing right to the end.”

Blackheath go to Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday.  Kick off at Silver Leys is 3pm.

PICTURE BY FELIX URSELL


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