Rosslyn Park - eight unbeaten, two points clear
On the offensive: Park's Luke Campbell gets forward in the win over Blackheath Picture: David Whittam
Rosslyn Park’s dominance of National League One stretched to eight consecutive wins with a 20-15 victory at Blackheath.
The away win lifts Park two points clear of second-placed Ealing Trailfinders, with Friday night’s crucial derby with Esher next on the agenda.
At Blackheath, Sam Katz was the inspiration for Park kicking 15 points, while Nev Edwards got the try – his 11th of the season.
Park started as if they meant business but were stunned when they conceded a penalty on five minutes, which the home side kicked to touch deep into Park territory.
From the subsequent line-out, Blackheath flanker David Allen peeled off and got over the line for 5-0.
The visitors quickly responded with an attack up the left, stopped at the cost of a penalty. That was kicked to touch for a line-out, and when Blackheath conceded another penalty - this time close to the posts - fly half Katz kicked the three points.
Another good move up the left saw Edwards gain ground into the home 22 before sending scrum half Jack Gash on a terrific run to the heart of the defence.
Park passed the ball both ways, probing for an opening but when a gap appeared a poor pass stopped the move.
However, Park continued to press, gained a further penalty, and Katz put his side into the lead for the first time on 12 minutes.
Park gained the initiative when they reacted quickly to a loose ball. It was scooped up by Steve Parsons, who made a strong run through the centre before off-loading to Hugo Ellis on the left.
Ellis made valuable yards and committed defenders before shipping the ball out to Edwards, who streaked in to score for 5-11.
Just as it looked as if Park would go into the interval with a lead that was just about deserved on the balance of play, a super break out of defence by Blackheath had the visitors defending desperately.
The home side had the visitors in all sorts of trouble at a scrum close to their own line.
Blackheath prop Des Brett got over, and Dan Mugford’s conversion sent his side into the dressing room with a 12-11 lead.
Almost from the second half kick-off, Blackheath were pinged for not releasing, but Katz could not kick a difficult penalty.
Dom Shabbo, always lively on the right wing, nearly put Parsons away and similarly Gash nearly produced a scoring chance for full-back Tom O’Toole.
Park nearly took the lead when Ellis sent Edwards close to the line, and it must have come as some relief to them when the home side conceded another penalty to allow Katz to kick his side back into the lead at 12-14.
But the pendulum soon swung back the other way when Park were themselves penalised out wide.
A superbly struck kick from Mugford made it 15-14 and, with Blackheath now looking a bit stronger in the scrum and in driving, the visitors’ long winning streak looked in severe danger.
The turning point may well have been the insertion of fresh legs into the front row in the considerable form of giant prop Lorne Ward.
Suddenly Park seemed to re-establish a measure of control, and within a minute, as they attacked, the home side were caught offside.
Katz nailed a penalty that would have been straightforward but for the extreme tension of the circumstances and Park had a 17-15 lead with 13 minutes left.
A super run through the middle by Parsons nearly bore fruit - but just when they seemed to have established control and needed only to retain possession to run down the clock, they gave themselves a fright, and Blackheath a boost, by kicking possession away.
Park came back and won another penalty at the start of added time for 20-15.
A couple of desperate attacks by the home side were repulsed until, having been awarded a penalty Park belted the ball out of play for the victory they deserved.