Blackheath 29 Fylde 31
Fylde coach Mark Nelson hailed his side’s fighting spirit after they maintained their 100 per cent start in SSE National League One after edging another high-scoring thriller.
It looked as though the game would end in a draw when Blackheath – seven points adrift in the dying minutes – scored a try through Mike Canty but David Marshall couldn’t add the extras to claim the draw.
On balance the visitors just about deserved it, although they had to overturn a 21-11 half-time deficit.
They easily enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the opening stages, and although Marshall outscored his opposite number Chris Johnson by three penalties to two, a Tom Burtonwood try on the half-hour edged Fylde into an 11-9 lead.
The London hosts’ best moment was to come and a break from Chris O’Neil led to Simon Whatling scrambling across, before Tom Stradwick broke through to score on the stroke of half-time for a 21-11 advantage for the hosts.
But after the break the lead changed hands for a fifth time and this time the visitors were not to lose their grip.
Superb ball retention from Fylde allowed Paul Arnold to be worked across the line within four minutes of the re-start, before Blackheath failed to clear their lines and a cross-field move saw Burtonwood over for a second.
Johnson converted both scores beautifully from out wide, and although Marshall narrowed the gap with a penalty on the hour, two further strikes from the Fylde fly-half was enough to keep the visitors just out of reach.
Coach Nelson said: “It was a very hard game. Blackheath were really up for it in front of their fans,” said Nelson after his side’s third straight win.
“Coming down to the capital can seem a little daunting to some, but it’s great to get a victory here. We had the ascendency up to about 10 minutes before half-time and then eased up a bit.
“I sat the lads down at half-time and really focused them, and they went out and really got into Blackheath. We got ourselves a seven-point cushion going into the final stages and then they missed a kick late on, so it was a hard fought win but a good one.
“You can’t rant away at half -time. You have to be very selective about what you say as people respond in different ways.
“What was also really good was that some of the key players also made very telling points themselves within the group discussion.
“It was good to see the team working together and the very intelligent approach we have.”
Arnold started at no.8 in the absence of England skipper Evan Stewart, with Roger Banks slotting into the second row.
Despite their outstanding start, Fylde have actually dropped a place in the National One table but Nelson is delighted.
“We are one of the five teams who have won all three of their games so far this season,” added Nelson, singling out half-back Johnson was praise. “He’s as good as a Premiership goal kicker and gives us that extra edge and will be very important in getting us towards the top of the table.
“He’s into a third year with us. At this level, if you have a goal kicker who can add those extra points and also kick far into the opposition half, relieve that pressure and help you to score more tries, that is crucial.”