With injuries, illness and a car crash on the way to the meet, it was a bare 16 T-Birds who travelled to a huge game at one of the oldest names in rugby, Blackheath.
The poor pitch and terrible weather conditions meant that this would never be a classic. Wet, muddy and freezing cold do not lend themselves to the running rugby that the T-Birds do so well.
The first 20 minutes were fairly even, both sides spending long periods camped on the other’s line, but neither able to score.
Even though the Thurrock pack quickly got on top in the set piece, the Blackheath pack were supreme in the lose.
Blackheath finally broke the deadlock with a penalty kick to lead 3-0.
As usual, the T’s backline looked dangerous but the Blackheath defence were up to the job and regularly pushed the final runner into touch.
Following a penalty and a “held up over the line”, despite being driven back by the T’s pack, the Blackheath 8 picked up from the base of the 5 meter scrum. Although quickly tackled by Thurrock 9 “Radders” Blackheath ran quick ball from the ruck to score the first try of the day. Unconverted, they lead 8-0 going to half time.
T’s pressed hard at the start of the second half, but the well organised and committed Blackheath defence constantly cut them down short of the tryline.
10 minutes in, T’s centre, Charlie West was laid low from a neck injury and the reorganisation required seemed to sap the team’s strength.
Even when the Blackheath 7 was given 10 minutes rest for a late tackle T’s could not seem to find the wherewithal to press home their advantage.
Still all the game was in Blackheath’s half but Blackheath were kicking better and winning the breakdown area but still T’s attacked.
30 minutes into the half, in only Blackheath’s second proper foray into T’s territory, defending centre Becky Prosser saw a lazy pass coming and grabbed the intercept. Running from her own 22 with Blackheath in hot pursuit, she touched down under the posts. The conversion from Laura Kavanagh bringing the score to 8-7.
Almost from the kick off, Blackheath attacked and in a final move when 2 T’s defenders collided, they were under the posts to push the gap back out to 15-7.
Blackheath were now on top and pressed into T’s territory. Awarded a penalty on the 22 it looked all over, but the kick hit the crossbar still leaving T’s 8 points short.
With less than 10 minutes to go, T’s were down to 14 with a player in the bin and Blackheath pressed hard for the decisive score, camped out in the T’s 22, play switching from side to side. Suddenly Becky Prosser pounced on a second lazy pass and again ran the length of the pitch to score, this time in the corner. With no conversion, the score stood at 15-12.
Blackheath again pushed hard from the kickoff and T’s were quickly down to 13 losing another player to injury and with no subs left.
This seemed to suddenly galvanise T’s who attacked turnover ball in the dying seconds and it was Blackheath who gratefully kicked to touch and end the game.
This result now throws the league wide open, with any one of 4 teams capable of winning, this losing bonus point might still be vital.
Away to Wasps II on the 7th March will be a really tough game.
T’s then finish the Season with two home games at Oakfield, Rosslyn Park on 21st March and Blackheath again on 28th March which might just be the title decider.