Blackheath record ninth straight victory but pushed hard at Guernsey


Blackheath won 17-7 at Guernsey on Saturday – a ninth consecutive victory – to keep them clear out in front at the helm of National League Two East.

But it was one of Club’s hardest matches they have played all season.

A notably big and physical side, Guernsey Raiders held an impressive home record at the start of the day, with just two defeats in nine games at Footes Lane, belying their place in the lower half of the table, and were hugely focused on a game they considered to be one of the highlights of their campaign.

On the day, however, Blackheath were immense, their defence solid and controlled, consistently knocking the hosts backwards and, against a good pack, comprehensively dismantled the Islanders’ scrum. Fitting then, that it was tight-head Archie Holland, and therefore one of the Club’s key demolition men, that was credited with the two tries which enabled Blackheath’s incursion on the Raiders’ fortress to succeed.

The very first scrum saw Holland, and front-row colleagues Oli Walliker and Luc Jeannot, win a penalty to relieve early Guernsey pressure, but a fine touch from fly-half Charlie Davies put the Islanders back on the attack for open-side Dom Rice to crash over for a converted try on seven minutes, the visitors’ only defensive blemish of the contest.

Blackheath’s response came in slightly bizarre circumstances, as Oli Burgess’ kick looked to have been signalled as in-touch, but with the clearance deemed legal, the Club were able to counter, going through the phases until Ed Taylor powered Holland over for the equalising score.

Bayed on by a majority of the 1,000-strong crowd, and with the elements in their favour, Guernsey continued to hold the territorial edge, looking to move the ball wide. That called for some vital last-ditch tackling, notably from Jack Daly, Alex Brown and Jake Hennessey, to hold firm.

Blackheath had a lead they never looked likely to relinquish after the break with the stiff breeze, and heavy drizzle, now at their backs.

Driving Guernsey back from their own scrum, and forcing them to ground the ball over the goal-line, the visitors won the put-in, from which the Club pack picked and drove for Holland’s second score close to the uprights.

In recent contests Blackheath had allowed the opposition to strike back quickly after conceding important scores, but this time the Club’s resolve was firm and demonstrated a discipline sometimes lacking of late.

Guernsey remained tenacious too. Daly and his replacement Chris Bell both made lovely breaks, only to be thwarted, and the greasy ball frustratingly slipped from Jake Lloyd’s grasp, but a 72nd-minute Burgess penalty, from 30 metres out, put the result beyond doubt and allowed Blackheath to celebrate an impressive win.

Blackheath return to Well Hall on Saturday for the visit of Henley (3pm).

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