FYLDE 30 BLACKHEATH 45: Report and reaction

Evan Stewart has the Blackheath defence at full stretch

Evan Stewart has the Blackheath defence at full stretch

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Over 100 former Fylde players were reunited for this penultimate National One home game and saw the teams share 12 tries, though the hosts trailed 24-0 after 17 minutes.

It looked like a humiliating afternoon for Paul Arnold’s men but they hit back with six tries only for their inability to convert any of them to prove their undoing, along with a propensity to concede penalties.

It took Blackheath just two minutes to take the lead. A lineout following a penalty for collapsing the first scrum resulted in flanker Dave Allen touching down from a driving maul. Setting the tone for the goalkickers’ poor afternoon, Freddie Gabbitas fired wide.

Straight from the restart, Fylde spilled the ball in the tackle. Allen scored his second from 20 metres and the visitors led 10-0. As Fylde’s errors and offences piled up, the Londoners’ number eight Anders Nilsson bludgeoned over from close range on 11 minutes and Gabbitas goaled.

Time and again Fylde were penalised for not releasing the ball at rucks, then conceded a penalty try for collapsing a scrum.

Twenty four points down, Fylde hit back immediately as good passing enabled Oli Brennand to skip through for his 19th try of the season. However, Tom Morton missed the goal and Gabbitas stretched the lead to 27-5 with a straightforward penalty.

By the half-hour, Fylde were at last warming to their task and prop Jonny Wild’s excellent offload resulted in centre Connor Wilkinson racing through for his first senior try. Two minutes later, Fylde won a penalty and flanker Ben Vernon scored his second try of the season..

Fylde then lost winger Anthony Bingham to a leg injury, the fit-again Jordan Dorrington replacing him, and the last action of the half saw another Gabbitas penalty make it 30-15.

First blood in the second half went to Blackheath as Nilsson drove over after yet another penalty. Dorrington scored Fylde’s bonus-point fourth try, racing in from 30 metres after a break down the right by replacement centre Scott Rawlings, but Sam Bedlow missed the goal and Gabbitas’ third penalty made it 38-20 on 52 minutes.

Blackheath had prop Terry Reid sin-binned two minutes later, though he had returned by the time Gareth Rawlings scorred Fylde’s fifth from a driving maul. His brother Scott missed that goal.

Comeback hopes were dashed on 73 minutes, when winger Jake Lloyd’s 40-metre interception try was goaled by Gabittas to make it 45-25.

Gareth Rawlings completed the scoring with his second try after Blackheath had Shaun English sinbinned.

Fylde slip below Coventry into 10th place, while the win keeps Blackheath on target for a top-four finish.

Fylde b acks 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 First XV and Second XV 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.”

Fylde: Briers; Bingham, Wilkinson, Bedlow, Brennand; Morton, Nicholls; Birchall, Loney, Wild, Gray, G Rawlings, Stewart, Vernon, Fairbrother. Replacements: Lewis, Mills, Arnold, S Rawlings, Dorrington.