Match report by Rob Kershaw / Photography by David Cunningham
A remarkable late surge from Plymouth Albion and a last-minute try from replacement Harry Wilkinson saw them snatch a dramatic victory from the hands of Blackheath in front of a delighted Brickfields crowd.
The crucial win leaves Albion 13th in the National League One table, just one point and a place below their beaten visitors and gives them a seven-point cushion over Leeds Tykes.
Unlike two weeks ago and indeed last week in Birmingham when the game was called off as a legacy of Storm Eunice, the weather was impeccable ahead one of Albion’s most vital fixtures of the season.
The visitors entered the afternoon having claimed six victories in the opening 20 games of the season, with two of those arriving away from home.
Albion two had managed six victories themselves having played two games fewer, and had already beaten Saturday’s opponents in the reverse fixture by six points; with their opponents four points ahead, this was a big one.
Albion appeared to start the better despite an early knock-on, but an unanticipated early blow would come through Nicholas Foster, who latched on to an excellent kick through to put the away side on the board.
The Albion response was punctual, and Jamie Salter found himself diving over the line to level the scores. Tom Putt nailed the conversion as Jake Hennessey had failed to do for Blackheath, meaning Albion had their noses in front.
This preceded Henry Clement storming over for the third try of a busy afternoon as the hosts turned the game on its head.
There would only really be one more attacking input from the visitors in the first half as Plymouth dominated proceedings, but Alex Ducker snuffed it out calmly while calling for the mark.
A late penalty in the opening period was struck through by Putt, and Albion took a commanding lead into the sheds.
Unusually, half-time lasted about eight minutes, and the hosts quickly found themselves struggling to get back up to speed after a first half of relative comfort.
From one of the rare forward ventures Albion did have, George Spencer stole a pass inside Blackheath territory, and superbly sprinted all the way to the try-line to claw one back for the away team – Hennessey this time made no mistake with the conversion.
It would not be long before they were in again, with Spencer forcing his way over for his second score to restore parity before Hennessey struck home the conversion. Blackheath were in front, and heads were being scratched as to how Albion had let this one slip.
Thereafter, Blackheath spent most of the second period camped out in the Albion half, with the home side strenuously working to try and gain some territory, but every attempt to do so was expertly extinguished by the visitors.
Hennessey stuck a penalty through the posts late on, and it looked as though it would be a game that had agonisingly run away from Albion following such a strong start.
However, Albion only needed one chance and one converted try to put their noses in front, and it could not have arrived under more dramatic circumstances.
A couple of late penalties helped them climb up the field and, underpinned by a staunch home support, earned a lineout five metres from the line.
Replacement Wilkinson caught and drove as hard as he could for the line, bundling over to a Brickfields eruption before Putt, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, calmly slotted the conversion to secure a last-gasp win.
And, with Leeds themselves having just failed to complete a second-half comeback of their own at home to Birmingham Moseley, it could not have come at a better moment.
Craig Duncan, Shea Cornish, Phil Jones, Jeremy Toa, Henry Clement, Dan Pullinger, Jamie Salter, Dan Southworth, Dan Collier, Ed Scragg, Jake Clemson, George Mills, Herbie Stupple
Harry Wilkinson, Torin Clarke, Wayne Sprangle, Ramaz Rukhadze, Frankie Nowell
Nicholas Foster, Jake Lloyd, George Spencer, Markus Burcham, Marcus Kershaw, Jake Hennessey, Daniel Hiscocks, Thomas Williams, Nathan Morris, Matthew Collins, Dominic McGeekie, Edward Taylor, Harry Dugmore, Frederik Owen, Harry Holland
Oliver Walliker, Andrew Boye, Daniel Dass, Oliver Claxton, Sam Kennaugh