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Blackheath do a job on Fylde

Fylde 30 Blackheath 45
 
Over 100 former players were part of a decent sized crowd at the Woodlands in Fylde's penultimate National One home game of the 2015/16 season. After 17 minutes of this error-strewn contest, they must have been scratching their heads about the standard of their hapless successors as the home side were 0-24 down to a dynamic Blackheath side.
 
It looked as if it would become a humiliating afternoon for Paul Arnold's men as they contrived to make every kind of mistake in the book. They were always going to be struggling to get anything from the game after such a start. In fact, by the final whistle, they had matched the visitors by scoring six tries. But, ultimately, the lack of a reliable goal kicker and their propensity to give away penalties contributed to their undoing.
 
It took Blackheath just two minutes to take the lead. The first scrummage of the game collapsed and referee Lee penalised Fylde. Visiting fly-half Freddie Gabbitas kicked for the corner and from the subsequent lineout a very well practised driving maul ended with flanker Dave Allen touching down. Goodness knows how many career tries have been scored by this fine player in the same fashion. It was to prove a poor afternoon for goal kickers and Gabbitas' attempted conversion was wide of the posts. 
 
Fylde gained possession from the restart but the ball was spilled in the tackle. Blackheath ran the ball down their left, brushed through some powder puff tackles and Allen finished off the move from 20m out. Once again the conversion was wide but the visitors had a 10-0 advantage.
 
Fylde were unable to establish any kind of continuity as errors and offences piled up. In the 11th minute Blackheath were back pressing deep in Fylde's half and no 8 Anders Nilsson bludgeoned his way over from close range, stretching out to get the touchdown. This time Gabbitas' conversion, from an somewhat easier position, was good and his side was 17-0 up.
 
By this time, Blackheath had established dominance at the tackle breakdown. Their backrow played the whole game on the edge of being offside and ruined much Fylde possession through turnovers and forcing penalties. Time and again, particularly in the 1st half, Fylde were penalised by Mr Lee for not releasing the ball at rucks. From one such offence and the obligatory penalty kick to the corner the  Blackheath driving maul was halted by the Fylde defence. A scrum followed and, as it collapsed and without a warning, Mr Lee went straight under the posts to award a penalty try. Gabbitas converted and 'Club' were 24-0 up and not believing their luck.
 
The Fylde comeback began immediately. They attacked deep inside the visitors half and neat passing down their right side released Oli Brennand who skipped through the defences for his 19th try of the season. Tom Morton's conversion attempt was wide but at least Fylde had opened their account.
 
Blackheath regained control and another offence at the tackle breakdown allowed Gabbitas to extend his side's big lead with a straightforward penalty kick.
 
By the half-hour, Fylde at last began to warm to their task as they got their running and passing game together. The forwards set up a number of phases, sucking in Blackheath defenders 20m out from their line. An excellent 'back of the hand' offload by prop Jonny Wild created space as the ball was worked right and young centre Connor Wilkinson raced through a gap for his first senior try. The conversion was well wide but the deficit had been reduced to 10-27.
 
In the 32nd minute Fylde were back deep in the visitors' half as it was time for Blackheath to transgress. A penalty kick to the right corner led to a driving Fylde maul and flanker Ben Vernon broke off the side to drive over the line for his 2nd try of the season. Winger Anthony Bingham retired from the fray in the 33rd minute with a leg injury and was replaced by fit again Jordan Dorrington. There was just time for Gabbitas to kick a penalty to extend his side's lead to 30-15 before the half-time whistle sounded to end a breathless, harem scarem 40 minutes.
 
First blood in the 2nd half went to Blackheath as from the predictable penalty conceded by the home side, the driving maul ended with no 8 Nilsson claiming his 2nd try and a 35-15 lead. By this time Paul Arnold had brought himself off the replacements bench along with Scott Rawlings. The powerful centre was soon in the midst of the action as in the 47th minute he broke down Fylde's right. He sucked in defenders before freeing Jordan Dorrington to race 30m along the touchline to score Fylde's bonus point 4th try in the right corner. Sam Bedlow had taken over the goal kicking duties by now but was no more successful with the attempted conversion. Gabbitass' third penalty extended Blackheath's lead to 38-20 in the 52nd minute.  
 
Fylde put in a strong final quarter as their pack established parity and a fair share of possession and territory. In the 54th minute referee Lee's patience with Blackheath's spoiling tactics finally ran out and prop Terry Read was sinbinned. Whilst the home side was unable to take advantage of the extra player, in the 65th minute they scored their fifth try when Gareth Rawlings was last man up following a driving maul. His brother Scott was just wide with the conversion attempt but Fylde were within two scores of the visitors at 25-38 down.
 
Typifying the afternoon, it was another Fylde mistake which confirmed Club's superiority. As the Fylde backs went left in midfield in the 73rd minute a drifted pass ended up in Blackheath winger Jake Lloyd's hands and he raced in from 40m to go under the posts. Gabbitass added the extras for a 45-25 scoreline.  
 
The final action took place near the Blackheath line. Lock Shaun English was given a yellow card for interference and Gareth Rawlings notched his 2nd try from another driving maul as the home side exploited their numerical advantage. But it was too little, far too late as Blackheath closed out the game for a clear and deserved win, their first at the Woodlands since 1998.
 
Twelve tries, six to each team, gave the crowd plenty of entertainment but the overwhelming impression from a home point of view was the very high error count and that disastrous first 17 minutes which in effect determined the final outcome. Poor goal kicking and a heavy penalty count against them were merely contributing factors.
 
Fylde Backs Coach Warren Spragg said: “Of course we're not happy.  In previous seasons we've been proud of our home form. We've just conceded 45 points and it's unacceptable. Blackheath are a smart squad. They were very disciplined and played the breakdown well.
 
"We're a club in a period of change - new coaches, a new set-up with 1sts & 2nds together. We have to all look at ourselves and our performances if we are to develop and earn a place in this division. If you're at the top of the league you've a massive motivation to succeed. Similarly if you are at the bottom fighting relegation. In the middle of the table, as we are, then you need real character if you are to fight week in, week out. We need to challenge ourselves in this respect, work harder and put in 80 minute performances. We've still three games to play and it's up to the players who want to be in the squad next season to demonstrate this.”
 

 

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