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Bishop's Stortford win 21-12 at Blackheath to guarantee National League 1 survival

By John Allanson

Magnificent Bishop’s Stortford defence helped them secure a 21-12 win at Blackheath to guarantee their National League 1 survival.

It was the visitors, who are now in the top half of the table, who made the first telling breakthrough in the 14th minute when Nick Hankin exploited a two on one out wide to touch down after good handling through several phases had stretched the home defence. Tom Banks converted confidently.

Blackheath swept straight back onto the attack from the restart. Some characteristically committed Stortford tackling held out the home backs, but two swift forward thrusts off the fringe of rucks were enough for their pack to force their way over for an unconverted try.

Stortford’s attack seemed to lose momentum, with a number of handling errors preventing any rhythm being found.

As a result, Blackheath dominated possession for most of the rest of the half, providing an even tougher examination of the visitors’ defence. This time it was able to hold firm, aided on occasions by handling errors from the opposition.

Nick Hankin, shown here in action against Ampthill, scored Stortford's opening try against Blackheath. Picture: Vikki Lince
Nick Hankin, shown here in action against Ampthill, scored Stortford's opening try against Blackheath. Picture: Vikki Lince

Blackheath then took the bold decision to take a quick tap from a penalty under the posts and spun the ball wide, only for a knock on to be made under pressure.

Ten minutes into the second half, Tom McCrone was considered responsible for the collapsing of a maul and he received a yellow card on top of the penalty try awarded by the referee, which put Blackheath 12-7 up.

Stortford then produced an intense defensive effort to repel the hosts’ threat before they fought back, and piled on the pressure themselves.

Blackheath conceded a penalty under their posts, which Banks tapped and went for the line. He was stopped just short, but Baxter Wilson, part of an outstanding back-row effort throughout, was on hand to seize on the ball and drive over through the ruck with 20 minutes left. Banks added the extras.

Ten minutes later, a home forward was shown a red card at a breakdown after a crucial Stortford turnover and it took barely three minutes for the visitors to take advantage of the extra man.

Joss Linney charged downfield, breaking the tackle of his opposite number and making more ground, before setting up Reuben Bird-Tulloch to go over, with Banks again converting.

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