Blackheath made a disappointing return to National League One action as they succumbed 28-15 to the might of the Plymouth Albion pack on a squally afternoon at Brickfields, writes Graham Cox.
The conditions were made for forwards, with the frequent showers adding to a ground made soft by recent heavy rain. With Albion holding the advantage in size and weight in just about every position, it was they who claimed full spoils.
Not that Blackheath were outclassed.
The Club had good passages of play with enough possession and movement which, on another day, would trouble the Devonians but when the sniff of a rally materialised late on, the deluge which arrived from the heavens in the final quarter denied them the accuracy and control they craved.
The early signs were ominous. Shunted backwards at the first scrum, and then driven over the goal-line, bodies underneath the ball denied the hosts.
It was only to be a short reprieve as loose-head Ramaz Rakhadze crashed over in the right corner on 12 minutes from close-range lineout ball, fly-half Phil Jones added a fine conversion from out wide.
With Jack Daly bravely and securely collecting two high balls, the ever-excellent Markus Burcham, in his 249th Club appearance, probing the midfield, and Bill Harding’s accuracy at the lineout, Blackheath soon found themselves camped in the right corner.
Three times Albion infringed as the visitors pressed the goal-line. Stevie Clark-Leonard showed particular strength but the next push saw Archie Holland across for the score.
Matt Dalrymple converted to level, and although the Club fly-half saw a penalty wobble wide, he soon added a successful strike for the lead following a scrum infringement.
Albion’s pack returned to the Club twenty-two once more, this time to work number-eight Sam Daly under the posts from a tap-penalty move, to put them 14-10 ahead at the break.
Albion continued after the restart with similar dominance as Daly was driven across for his second score, but it was the moments immediately after that probably sealed Blackheath’s fate.
An outstanding 50:22 touch from scrum-half Jack Oulton gave Albion field position, and although lineout ball was untidy, Jones plundered a hole in the defence to put his skipper across to finish the move he had effectively started.
As conditions deteriorated, loose ball in Club territory was hoofed forward several times, and Leo Fielding won the race to touch down, sparking hope of salvaging some return for the long trip. But the rainfall returned with such intensity to extinguish any realistic chance of a dramatic turnaround.
Blackheath will look to wipe away the memory of successive away defeats as they return to The Utilita tomorrow for the visit of Richmond, the latest instalment of the longest continuously played fixture in world rugby union.
Wimbledon lost 23-19 at Henley in National League 2 East.
Tomasz Pozniak, George Brosch and Paul Hendry scored the Dons tries with Edward Morgan converting twice.
PICTURE: ANDY WANSBURY
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