Clinical Blackheath bring down Cambridge
Difficult home run continues
It was a tale of the difference in the two 22s as Cambridge succumbed to a 27-16 defeat at home to Blackheath in National League One.
In as good as an example as you are likely to find, the home supporters witnessed what it takes to break into the top six, and what their side still have to work on.
For the best part of 20 minutes at the start of the second half – with the score at 17-11 – Cambridge enjoyed the lion’s share of territory and possession, and most of it within the Blackheath 22.
However, what they were not able to do was trouble the scoreboard.
Then, in their first foray into the Cambridge 22 in the second period, Blackheath fly-half Joe Tarrant landed a penalty to give his side a bit of breathing space.
Two minutes later, in the 71st minute, Harry Bate made a break and drew the last man before passing to scrum-half Josh Davies to race through and score, with the extras from Tarrant making it 27-11 to the visitors.
And it was that crucial lesson in being clinical that Cambridge needed to absorb.
Blackheath were certainly deserving winners, and there should be no doubting that, but Cambridge will have left the pitch with regrets.
The visitors were quick off their line in defence and were very good at slowing the ball down, which restricted Cambridge getting into any sort of pattern.
But the hosts were just lacking a spark or touch of ingenuity to break through the thick black defensive wall.
The pick and gos were not really successful, and it was crying out for them to stretch the game and add greater width to their play, but they were always just a little bit too narrow.
There was an opportunity, at 17-11, for Cambridge to go for the posts from a penalty, but instead they opted for a line-out.
In hindsight, they may have made a different decision and gone for the points, but the bigger complaint may be the easy outs for the visitors, which happened a bit too often.
And to make it a bit more frustrating, a relatively even first half must have given Cambridge the belief that the game was there to try to win against one of the division’s top five.
Tarrant had kicked Blackheath ahead after two minutes, but Jack Green levelled after nine minutes.
The visitors’ first score came after 24 minutes and it was really well crafted. Blackheath’s support play and off-loading was prevalent throughout, and Tarrant started the move and was then on hand to finish it off by the posts.
But just after Louis Rawlings had been sin-binned for Cambridge, Ashley Elvers fielded the penalty and ran it straight back at the visitors, before play was spread wide to Jake McCloud who had enough legs to get down in the corner for the hosts.
Blackheath increased their lead to 17-8 at half time, as more quick hands saw Davies put in Tom Baldwin at half time.
There was a surprising change from Cambridge at half time in the front row, with their scrum having more than held their own in the first half, and it seemed to set them back a bit, taking a while to reproduce the same platform after the break.
It had not taken long for Green to land a second penalty to reduce the arrears though, and then they ramped up the territorial domination.
However, the fact that did not result in points left the door open for Blackheath, with Tarrant and Davies duly obliging to give them a 16-point advantage.
And Rob Conquest’s touch down from a catch and drive ended up being too little too late for Cambridge.
Cambridge: M Ayrton; Elvers, J Ayrton, Penfold, Portsmouth; Green, Keenan; Ibrahim, Griffiths, Moynihan, Conquest, Bretag-Norris, McCloud, Rawlings, Onojaife.
Replacements: Painter (Moynihan, 41), Lewis (Penfold, 55), Barker (Keenan, 54), Rayment (Griffiths, 64), Waring (Rawlings, 64), Moynihan (Ibrahim, 73).
Blackheath: Fielding; Griffiths, Burcham, Cooke, Lloyd; Tarrant, Davies; King, Perks, Herriott, Nilsson, Stradwick, McCormick-Huston, Bate, Baldwin.
Replacements: Farmer (McCormick-Huston, 54), Fry (Perks, 64), Scutt (Herriott, 74), Evans (Tarrant, 74), Chapman (Griffiths, 76), Herriott (Scutt, 80).
Referee: Robert Bourke.
Sin bin: Cambridge – Rawlings (foul play, 27), J Ayrton (technical offence, 80+7); Blackheath – Baldwin (technical offence, 52), Bate (technical offence, 80+3).
Scorers: 2min Tarrant pen (0-3), 9 Green pen (3-3), 24 Tarrant try – Tarrant con (3-10), 28 McCloud try (8-10), 32 Baldwin try – Tarrant con (8-17), 42 Green try (11-17), 69 Tarrant pen (11-20), 71 Davies try – Tarrant con (11-27), 80+4 Conquest try (16-27).