Early red card a telling factor as Blackheath lose 34-17 at Darlington MP


It’s very hard to compete for 78 minutes against a broadly equally-matched opponent with a man short, but in that sense, the 14 men of Blackheath cannot be faulted for the effort and energy they showed in this ultimately disappointing and unsatisfying contest.

In the end the weight of numbers overcame them, and Darlington Mowden Park ended with a win good enough to lift them above the Club in the National League One table.

In a dreadful start for the visitors, Morgan Passman’s break through a gap on the left flank not only saw a red card for Stef Liebenberg for an adjudged high tackle on the unfortunate DMP wing, who damaged his knee as he went to ground, but also resulted in the opening try as centre Ollie Walker picked up the loose ball to touch down.

Blackheath’s response was immediate and impressive.  In particular Ben Ransom who, being called up to the unfamiliar role of scrum-half for the third time in recent matches, kept his side going through the phases for Alex Pickersgill to weave through the remaining cover and run around the uprights, Ransom converted to level at 7-7.

Then, on 18 minutes, and with advantage being played, Mark Cooke broke down the left touchline, Craig Dowsett appeared on his inside, the Club wing sprinting home from 25 metres for another converted score.

Had Blackheath scored again soon after, they might have sparked panic in the hosts’ ranks, but ball was lost forward in the drive, and as DMP scrum-half Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti broke upfield, the platform was set for the hosts to create the overlap for full-back Callum Irvine to score.

With Tom Baldwin heading for the sin-bin, DMP fly-half Warren Seals added a penalty to his two conversions and with their vociferous crown behind them, Mowden Park led 17-14 at the break.

Darlington were fortunate not to lose a player themselves when a series of penalties culminated in a deliberate knock-on, but Cooke added the three points to level proceedings once more, and with good set-piece ball, and led by their titanic skipper Markus Burcham, who was tireless at inside-centre, Blackheath remained competitive.

Superior numbers would ultimately come to the fore.  On the hour-mark Walker scored his second try as space was created out wide on the left following a good drive from the DMP pack.

Seals added the conversion and a penalty, and as Blackheath tried to play catch-up from their 22 in the closing stages, the DMP fly-half completed a fine kicking display with a further two points after inside-centre Ben Dixon crossed with two men to spare.

Blackheath have back-to-back Kent derby fixtures prior to the Christmas break.   Old Elthamians make the short journey to Well Hall tomorrow, followed a week later by Canterbury who make their way up the M2.

Kick-off for both matches is 3pm.

Pictures by Martin Fletcher

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