Fylde’s relegation confirmed at Well Hall

Blackheath 36 Fylde 5

Fylde’s unequal battle to maintain its position in National One ended at Well Hall when they lost to old friends and rivals Blackheath. After seven seasons at level three, they will be competing in National Two (North) in 2018/19. Once again, the young team put in a gritty performance, especially in the 2nd half, and showed pride and determination in wearing the famous claret, gold and white hoops.

Fylde have always played an open, attacking game and in the first four seasons in National One they impressed all their opponents in the division with their free scoring style. They finished in 4th place in 2011/12, then 6th, 3rd and 4th in successive seasons, punching well above their weight in terms of playing budgets. Maintaining competitiveness in the last three seasons became a struggle as they slipped to 10th and then 12th last season. The Club was last relegated in 2002/3 and they had eight seasons in N2N before the glorious promotion campaign in 2010/11. Their ambition is clearly to return to N1 as soon as possible, subject to sustaining financial health and maintaining the Club’s essential community ethos in an increasingly big spending league structure.

Blackheath took early control as they attempted to improve on their 5th place in the division. In the 7th minute Fylde conceded a penalty and Blackheath opted for a scrummage near the visitors’ line. Fly-half Joe Tarrant, chief tormentor in their narrow victory at the Woodlands in November, slipped through a gap in the defence for a neat try. He converted his own effort for a 7-0 lead.

Blackheath were soon back on the attack and pressing deep inside the Fylde half. From a line-out the forwards drove to the line and hooker Matt Miles was last up to claim the try. Tarrant was unable to add the extras from wide out but his side had a useful 12-0 lead in only the 12th minute.

Fylde earned somewhat more possession but were under pressure in the set pieces. In the 20th minute they slipped further behind when Blackheath centre Marcus Burcham exploited some weak tackling by selling a neat dummy and scoring his side’s 3rd try. Tarrant’s attempted conversion hit the post but ‘Club’ had a 17-0 advantage.

There was little let up in Blackheath’s pressure and in the 26th minute they scored their bonus point try when, from a scrum near the Fylde line, no 9 Jack Walsh sniped over from close range. This time Tarrant’s kick was successful as he stretched the lead to 24-0.

Fylde heads didn’t drop and, in typical fashion, they hit back with a splendid long range try in the last minute of the 1st half. Winger Jake Foster, making his first National One start, linked up with Tom Carleton who sprinted away to leave Blackheath defenders clutching at thin air. Fly-half Greg Smith was unable to kick the conversion but at least Fylde had points on the board as the players trouped off to the changing rooms at the interval.

Fylde upped the intensity of their play in the 2nd half and were much more competitive. But in the 46th minute they went further behind. Once again, Club attacked deep in the visitors’ half and worked a simple overlap to put winger Alex Pickersgill over in the right corner.

Fylde rung the changes with replacement forwards Dan Richardson, Toby Harrison and Harlan Corrie pitched into the fray. They battled back to earn equal possession and territory without being able to penetrate an effective Blackheath defence. Their efforts were undermined somewhat by continuing to concede penalties.

In the 55th minute, play was held up when Blackheath flanker Anders Nilsson appeared to suffer a very painful dislocation of his elbow and was replaced.

In the closing minutes Blackheath pressed once again in the Fylde half and Burcham finished the scoring when he drove through and hit the bottom of the posts protectors for his side’s 6th try and his second. Tarrant kicked a straightforward conversion to complete the scoring.

Click here for a match report and some photos on the Blackheath website.

15 Tom Carleton; 14 Jake Foster, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 James Bailey; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Adam Lewis (c), 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Mark Irving (Dan Richardson 47), 4 Nick Ashcroft (Harlan Corrie 49), 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Ben Vernon (Matt Garrod 67), 7 Tom Burtonwood, 8 David Fairbrother (Toby Harrison 47).

Non-playing replacement: Adam McCarthy.

Photo above courtesy of Blackheath RFC/Graham Cox.