BY GRAHAM COX
There was frustration for Blackheath in their first home game of the new National League One season as, despite leading going into the final 10 minutes, late errors enabled Bishop’s Stortford to strike twice and take a 31-27 victory.
For the second week in a row the Club seemingly had a game within their grasp and conceded 14 points late on but unlike at Taunton on the opening Saturday of the campaign, this time the lead proved inadequate.
“I said at training that Stortford are a side who will never lie down and never stop trying,” said Blackheath head coach James Shanahan.
“You take your foot off the pedal and they’ll hit you, and huge credit must go to them taking their chances.”
In the eight previous league meetings between the two sides, the margin of victory (four to three in favour of Stort, with one draw) has never exceeded 10 points, and the advantage would not stretch beyond that at any point in this contest.
In record-breaking September heat, scrum-half Connor Lloyd opened the visitors’ account on just two minutes with a penalty for a high tackle.
Soon after Leo Fielding broke to the Stort twenty-two, and Tom Ffitch dummied through the defensive line to score under the uprights.
However, as with later in the contest, it was two quick scores that put the Hertfordshire side in charge.
Collecting the ball on halfway, wing Josh Stannard evaded defenders, before cutting inside for a fine try, before back-row Harrison Langworthy drove across from lineout ball. Lloyd converted both scores for a 17-7 lead.
Blackheath responded as Jake Lloyd cut in from his right-wing, before moving to the left flank to receive the scoring pass from Shae Tucker.
Ffitch pushed his conversion across the posts, but the Club fly-half slotted an easier penalty, reducing the deficit to just two points at the interval.
In terms of possession and territory, Blackheath dominated the next 30 minutes. Ffitch slotted four penalties, a couple from long-range, as the hosts punished the visitors’ indiscipline to forge a 27-17 advantage.
However, on 71 minutes, Stort broke quickly into Club territory after ball was lost forward, left-wing Chris Smith gliding over in acres of space.
Then, moments later, after two quick penalties had conceded ground to the visitors, a neat grubber from fly-half Matt Riddington was picked up by blind-side Toby Tierney, Riddington adding another conversion for a perfect kicking display from the Stort half-backs.
One last chance fell to Blackheath, as Tom Baldwin and Chris Bell broke away, but the final pass eluded, and Stort concluded a bonus-point victory.
Blackheath make a first-ever league visit to Leicester Lions on Saturday (2pm).
PICTURES: ANDY WANSBURY
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