Rugby union: Blackheath in dramatic 29-29 draw against local rivals Rosslyn Park

There was no lack of drama in Blackheath’s 29-29 draw at Rosslyn Park in National 1 on Saturday, writes Graham Cox.

It was a typical local derby between two clubs who have shared a rivalry since the 1880s – scrappy, a little fractious at times, though never boiling over.

It will be Blackheath who walked away the happier. The last-ditch converted try claimed three league points for the visitors against the side placed third in the table, though even the most die-hard Rosslyn Park supporter must concede this was a far more enthralling contest than the uninspiring 15-0 victory for the Surrey team at The Utilita in December.

The home faithful would also have been confident of repeating that result, after their side emerged firmly on top at the interval.

As ball went loose at the kick-off, Benji Marfo broke away, and with play moving across field, opposite wing Charlie Walker kicked ahead, and centre Tom Stanton gathered a fortuitous bounce, for a 5-0 lead with significantly under a minute played.

Tom Ffitch pulled three points back for the visitors, but despite Blackheath recycling possession well, the Park defence resisted solidly, giving up little ground.

In the final 10 minutes of the half it was Park who launched their first period of sustained pressure. As the pack picked and drove their way infield, second-row Jordan Martin found the chink in the Club’s ramparts for a converted try and a 12-3 advantage for the hosts.

The first 14 minutes after the restart witnessed a dramatic turnaround.

A huge Blackheath scrum was followed by ball held up across the goal-line. As pressure was maintained, Tom Stradwick and Ben Charnock made ground, before Leo Fielding came off his wing to finish under the uprights.

Mark Cooke will forever claim his punt forward was always intended as a 50:22, but it gave Blackheath lineout from which Billy Harding peeled blind off a powerful driving maul to score in the corner.

Then, as Park conceded a fifth penalty since the break, the visitors continued to probe the gain-line for Charnock to cross, and with Ffitch adding a second conversion, Blackheath had turned a nine-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

Not for long. Four minutes later, Marfo offloaded, and full-back Joe Luca Smith found a wonderful break to expose the Club’s midfield. As a deliberate knock-on handed the hosts a kickable penalty, fly-half Max Craven obliged with the three points that, added to his conversion, brought parity at 22-22.

Marfo gathered his own kick forward to ground in-goal for his side’s fourth score on 67 minutes. With Blackheath down to 13 players, having two men in the sin-bin, Park looked to have the game in their grasp.

Club returned to full strength in the closing minutes and launched one huge final assault.

Blackheath’s pack crabbed their way infield from a five-metre scrum and Andy Denham, playing out of his usual wing position in the back-row, dived across for the try which salvaged a well-deserved draw.

National League One takes a week off before the final round of fixtures on April 27, when Blackheath host relegation-threatened Taunton.

Wimbledon won 55-32 at home to Worthing in National 2 East.

Ed Morgan converted all five of the Dons’ first-half tries.

Wimbledon’s try scorers were Devlin Hope (two), Joshua Stace (two), Tomasz Pozniak (two), Alex Kerr and Thomas Mitchell.


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