Photo: Helen Watson
A devastating first-half performance gave Blackheath a club record of nine consecutive league victories while at the same time extinguishing any lingering hopes third-placed Fylde entertained of gaining promotion this term.
Despite suffering an early set-back when a charged-down kick was pounced on by Fylde left-wing Oliver Brennand for the opening score, the Club countered with such ferocity that at 38-5 the match was effectively over as a contest by the interval.
‘I’m really proud of the boys today,’ said a delighted Club Performance Director Yusuf Ibrahim afterwards.
‘We’re far from the finished article and we’ve got a long way to go, but we worked really hard in training this week ahead of this game. There’s a fantastic spirit in the Club at the moment.’
But it wasn’t the tidiest of starts from the hosts. A loose pass in their own twenty-two needed mopping up and when Sam Windsor needed to clear for a second time, the ball rebounded off the head of Fylde fly-half Richard Kenyon, Brennand toe-poked towards the corner with perfection and grounded for a 5-0 lead.
Prior to this match Brennand and opposite wing Nick Royle had amounted 46 tries between them and although the Fylde flyers (bet that’s never been used before!) were destined to extend their tally in this contest, the Club defence, drilled hard all week by James Honeyben, proved resolute. Instead it was a rampage up the middle, started by second-row Grant Ferguson on 16 minutes, that proved the biggest threat early on, but spilled ball inside Club territory was snapped up by Mike Canty
, who set England U18 wing Tom Chapman off at pace before the full-back re-took possession to cross; Sam Windsor’s first of seven successful conversions giving Blackheath the lead.
As the Club pack stepped up the pressure with their well-executed set-piece and some decent carries, Fylde began to concede the penalties inside the red-zone and as James Catt
burst off the base of a scrum the ball was re-cycled for Tom Bason to drive powerfully over for try number two, but it was the next score that did most to break the opposition.
A difficult high ball saw Canty take the ball across his own goal-line, conceding the five-metre put-in, and an excellent attacking platform for the visitors, but as the ball made its way across field and a three-man overlap queued up on the left, Canty intercepted and sprinted unmolested the length of the field and beneath the opposition uprights.
In the 32nd minute a forward pass led to a Blackheath scrum in the Fylde twenty-two from which Dave Bonner off-loaded for Sam Windsor to dummy and break some poor tackling, and soon after Dave Allen
was mauled 20-metres from a line-out to dive across, a move that saw Fylde lock Paul Arnold head to the sin-bin for side entry.
Finally, on the stroke of half-time and as Fylde’s discipline collapsed, Sam Windsor’s chip ahead on half-way was met by James Stephenson who sent Canty on his way for his hat-trick and Blackheath completed a haul of 38-points in just 24 minutes.
Allen was driven across to take his season tally to 24 (and the score to 45-5) after the re-start, but Fylde are too good a side to lie down and, trying to run the ball at every opportunity, the Lancastrians now put down the foundations of an improbable comeback.
Sparked by fresh legs off the replacement bench, and the return of a juggling Arnold who took play forward, Brennand’s inside pass found scrum-half Stephen Depledge to race over, and as Blackheath’s shape and discipline took a turn in being rattled, right-wing Nick Royle profited from a quick-tap penalty in front of the posts.
Straight from the re-start the Fylde pack secured possession and Brennand, from inside his own half, scampered away with some tired-looking defence looking on, to add his second, but as quickly as the resurgence started it ran out of puff.
Once again the Club pack took control and after two close-range line-outs a five-metre scrum saw a beaming Des Brett snipe around the fringes for a most popular try, notching up the half-century in the process.
A cut to his forehead meant it was Brett’s last involvement in the contest, but Depledge’s up-ending of James Stephenson allowed Blackheath one final line-out opportunity from which James Cleverly
made up for Brett’s absence by driving over for the Club’s ninth and final score.
‘Blackheath thoroughly deserved their win today,’ said a generous Fylde Head Coach Mark Nelson.’
‘We had chances early on but we didn’t convert them and Blackheath capitalised on our errors.’
Next Saturday Blackheath travel to the West Midlands to face Birmingham & Solihull at Damson Park before returning a week later to Rectory Field for their final match of the season against Rosslyn Park.
The match against Park on Saturday 28th April will be the Club’s Ladies’ Day in aid of Breast Cancer Care.
Tries: Canty 3, Bason, Windsor (Sam), Allen 2, Brett, Cleverly
Conv: Windsor (Sam) 7
Tries: Brennand 2, Depledge, Royle