Fylde 19 Blackheath 26
For the second successive home game, Fylde got to within a converted try of their opponents but lost in a tight contest. Once again, there were encouraging signs in a gutsy performance, this time against the 5th placed aristocrats from Blackheath, but frustratingly no winning National One league points.
In all honesty, Blackheath would have been devastated if they had yielded to Fylde’s late assault as they dominated possession and territory for the majority of the match. But Fylde always posed danger when they secured good ball and if they had avoided some carelessness then they might well have triumphed against the odds.
For once, the Fylde pack didn’t looked dwarfed by a mammoth opposing pack of giants straight from the pages of Gulliver’s Travels. Whilst the visiting forwards were a very competent unit and lock Tom Stradwick was highly efficient in the lineouts, the Fylde pack competed well in the tight exchanges. Blackheath retained the ball well when in possession and referee Ben Davis gave them plenty of opportunities with a stream of penalties awarded against the home team. It was about 20 minutes in before he penalised ‘Club’ to the ironic applause of the Woodlands crowd.
In the 9th minute from one of the penalties conceded by Fylde in their own half, Blackheath’s neat fly-half, Joe Tarrant, kicked for the corner. The subsequent driving maul was efficient and no 8 Tom Baldwin was driven over the line. Tarrant kicked the conversion for a 0-7 lead.
Fylde hit back in the 20th minute when, with their first positive penalty decision in their favour, Smith eschewed an easy 3 points to kick for the corner. Fylde secured lineout ball and set up a driving maul from 20m out. The maul was halted but, after a few more phases, defenders were drawn in and the ball was moved swiftly left to winger Tom Grimes who beat the cover to score in the corner. Greg Smith was unable to add the extra points from the touchline.
Blackheath came back strongly and camped inside the Fylde 22m line. The forwards drove forward faced by a desperate home defence. No 8 David Fairbrother was adjudged to have illegally interfered in the ruck and was shown a yellow card. Blackheath took due advantage of their extra player from the penalty and a few phases later Joe Tarrant found a gap in the Lancastrians’ defence and slipped through under the posts. He converted his own try for a 5-14 lead.
Fylde heads didn’t drop and they poured forward in the last minutes of the 1st half. From a penalty awarded to them in the Blackheath half, Smith kicked for the corner and from the subsequent maul hooker Tom Burtonwood broke off and twisted his way athletically over the line to touch down. Greg Smith converted well and the players disappeared to the changing rooms with Fylde two points in arrears at 12-14. Given Blackheath’s possession and territory in the first 40 minutes, this was a good position for Fylde.
Blackheath started the 2nd half in a similar fashion to the 1st period. They pressed inside the Fylde half and in the 45th minute they sucked in Fylde defenders before moving the ball left. Impressive open side flanker Harry Bate raced around the undermanned Fylde cover and scored halfway between the posts and the touchline. Tarrant kicked the conversion and his side led by 12-21.
Club’s centre Alex Pickersgill was helped off with a leg injury in in the 51st minute and was replaced by Sam Evans. He was soon in the action when, after another spell of Blackheath pressure around the Fylde try line in the 64th minute, he scored in the right corner. Tarrant missed his only kick of the afternoon but Club had a 12-26 lead and had earned their 4-try bonus point.
But this didn’t quash Fylde’s spirt and ambition to get back into the contest. They attacked with renewed energy and in the 69th minute a superb, inch perfect chip to the far right by Connor Wilkinson was caught on the full by fullback Chris Briers on the Blackheath 22m line and he fed Tom Carleton outside him. The young winger scored with not a hand placed on him. By this time, Greg Smith had picked up an arm injury and had been replaced at fly-half by Danny Carlton. The former Manchester skipper converted beautifully from wide out to bring his side within a converted try of the visitors with more than 15 minutes left including plentiful injury time.
Despite increasingly desperate efforts to run the ball from inside their own 22m area, Fylde couldn’t penetrate a committed Blackheath defence. The visitors ran down the clock to finish 19-26 winners. Fylde had the modest return of a losing bonus point, the same as their last home game against Moseley, but there were encouraging signs that the squad is increasingly competitive against much higher placed clubs. Home debutant Luke Fowden showed up well at centre and is learning senior rugby union quickly after moving from rugby league.
FYLDE: 15 Briers; 14 Carleton, 13 Wilkinson, 12 Fowden, 11 Grimes; 10 Smith (Carlton 64), 9 Dolly; 1 Lewis ©, 2 Burtonwood (Gregory 60), 3 Irving (Richardson 69), 4 Ashcroft (Garrod 60), 5 Parkinson, 6 Corrie, 7 Vernon (Harrison 50), 8 Fairbrother.
BLACKHEATH: 15 Fielding; 14 Lloyd, 13 Burcham ©, 12 Pickersgill (Evans 51), Chapman; 10 Tarrant, 9 Davies (Walsh 64); 1 Hallam, 2 Perks (Fry 55) , 3 Herriott (Scutt 34), 4 Osazuwa, 5 Stradwick, 6 Owen (McCormick-Houston 60), 7 Bate, 8 Baldwin.