SEB Reynolds believed the three second-half minutes in which Rams went in front and then fell back behind encapsulated their 31-18 National One home defeat to Blackheath, writes Richard Ashton.

In a contest littered with quality attacking play from both sides, wing Jak Rossiter’s second try had nudged the hosts 18-17 in front after 57 minutes, only for opposite man Nick Foster to reply almost immediately before Jake Lloyd’s second shortly after established a lead Rams were unable to make a dent in.

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And Director of Rugby Reynolds reflected: “We were very good in attack, going through multiple phases, building a lot of pressure and I loved some of our tempo – it was brilliant to watch.

“But while we had those moments, we also struggled to exit our half and Blackheath were able to put immediate pressure back onto us.

“They had a solid foundation from the scrum and showed they’re a very dangerous attacking side – probably one of the best in the league when they push the ball wide. There was some really good rugby on show.

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“It got to a stage where we had to force it and we perhaps overplayed in our attack. A couple of off-loads went to ground and we kicked the ball away trying to go for a miracle score and then Blackheath were able to capitalise on those errors.

“They came here and got a bonus point and did a very good job.”

On a fine albeit windy afternoon, it was the away side who started with a bang at Old Bath Road as second row James Catt crossed for a third-minute try, Mark Cooke – whose influence grew as the contest developed – adding the extras.

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Rams hit back almost immediately, though, the excellent Kieran Leicester cutting a fine line before shrugging off a couple of would-be tacklers to cross the whitewash.

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Cooke slotted a penalty to extend the lead to 10-5, before a concerted period of Rams’ pressure nearly resulted in a try, a brilliant break from Conor Corrigan failing to deliver a score when the speedster knocked on stretching for the line.

Tom Humberstone landed a penalty to cut the gap to two points, but Blackheath landed a crucial blow shortly before half-time, a slick backs move ending with Lloyd dotting down in the right-hand corner.

Cooke landed a superb touchline conversion to give his side a 17-8 lead at the break.

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Rams rallied, however, and a brace of tries from Rossiter put them in front, the first score a magnificent solo effort in which he beat numerous visiting defenders before diving over to the right of the posts.

Yet Humberstone failed to land either conversion attempt, leaving Rams only 18-17 up.

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Blackheath responded quickly and scored a third try of their own when Foster was on the end of another flowing move, Cooke knocking over another superb conversion from the right-hand flank.

The Club’s bonus-point was sealed on 63 minutes, their backs again creating space with Lloyd grabbing his second.

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Cooke landed a third brilliant conversion to stretch the lead, and with Rams beginning to try and force the play in the final quarter, a series of mistakes meant Blackheath ultimately held on comfortably.

Reflecting on the loss, Reynolds said: “It’s important you don’t get over-excited when you win and you don’t get too down-hearted when you lose. The positives were we played some great attacking rugby – some of our best of the season.

“Kieran is going from strength-to-strength at full-back, Jak stepping off his right foot looked brilliant and took a couple of great tries, Conor looked great even though he didn’t get a score – he over-stretched for one but the important thing was he made the line-break in the first place. They all

looked really good and I’m pleased with that.”

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Rams’ defeat leaves them third in the table and now eight points adrift of table-toppers Richmond, though Reynolds said a tough run of fixtures – which has seen them play four of the top six since Christmas in Darlington Mowden Park, Chinnor, Richmond and Blackheath – has allowed them to

learn more about themselves in the third tier of English rugby.

He said: “At this time of year it’s about maintenance and getting the players ready for Saturday. It’s been a gruelling run and a new challenge, but we’ve learnt from it and done well. But we’ll look to keep learning and how we can get better.”

Next up for Rams is a home game against Bishop’s Stortford, a side they lost 21-11 to back in October, and Reynolds is keen for a quick return to winning ways.

He concluded: “Bishop’s Stortford are a very good side and it won’t be easy, but it would be nice to get the win (to make up for last time).”

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