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Barbarians thrill thousands at Blackheath

PUBLISHED: 15:47 20 March 2009 | UPDATED: 16:21 25 August 2010

BLACKHEATH entertained a massive crowd at their Rectory Field ground when they hosted the Barbarians as part of their 150th birthday celebrations on Wednesday night. Although they were on the wrong end of a 45-57 scoreline, the 2,500 watching fans were

BLACKHEATH entertained a massive crowd at their Rectory Field ground when they hosted the Barbarians as part of their 150th birthday celebrations on Wednesday night.

Although they were on the wrong end of a 45-57 scoreline, the 2,500 watching fans were treated to an excellent display of running rugby.

Club spokesman Peter Brown said: "It was really exciting from start to finish and a game that the spectators really enjoyed. It was score-for-score up until the end, but the visitors only just began to pull away in the final 10 minutes to snatch the win."

It is only the third time in their history that Blackheath - the world's oldest open club - have played against the highly regarded opposition.

Former Blackheath player, William Percy Carpmael, founded the Barbarians in the 1880s and their popularity has snowballed ever since. They recently played Australia in Wembley in front of over 40,000 spectators and are renowned for playing an attractive brand of running rugby.

Current Namibian international Heino Senekal was the star of the show for the nomadic outfit and Scotland's second-highest capped player, Gordon Bulloch, also put in a fine performance.

Brown revealed that the crowd had been much bigger than expected and everyone was in high spirits well into the night.

"The gates were open from four and people were trickling in constantly and, by the end of the night, we had a huge crowd," he said. "We had expected around 1,500 people, but the jazz band and hog-roast kept everyone in good spirits."

The pattern of the game was set after only three minutes when the Baa-Baas, passing the ball at dizzying speed from one side of the field to the other, went over in the corner; John Dalziel of Melrose touching down for an unconverted try.

The reply came swiftly when Blackheath full back Tom White pounced on a loose Barbarians' pass in his own 22 and scorched 80 metres down the field to score near the posts. Matt Leek's conversion put Blackheath two points ahead.

The first scrum came after 10 minutes and it was immediately obvious that Blackheath's pack were not going to let the bigger and heavier forwards of the invitation side have it their way.

Five minutes later and the Barbarians were zipping the ball along their line again, presenting England Sevens international Simon Hunt with a try in the corner.

Soon after, Blackheath's Steve Hamilton crashed through to score a try before, in the 25th minute, winger Sam Smith set off on a wonderful weaving 50-metre run across the field. Clever passing at the end of his run put Blackheath's other winger, Johnnie Williams, over for a try that White converted to make the score 21-12.

By now a packed Rectory Field crowd was relishing the exhilarating play of both sides, who were determined to pass the ball out of hand at every opportunity.

The Baa-Baas then scored three tries in quick succession - Hunt, David Bishop and Seb Jewell all touching down - before Mark Odejobi finished off another fine break by Smith to bring Blackheath to within three points of their illustrious visitors at half-time.

No sooner had the spectators caught their breath at half-time, than the points started piling up again at the start of the second period. Army and Newbury flanker Mark Lee was the first to cross the whitewash two minutes after the restart - England international Nick Walshe of Bedford Blues adding the conversion.

It was then the turn of Joe Simpson - the London Wasps and England Saxons star who was Blackheath's scrum-half last season and had returned for this one-off match - to break through a gap to score a try converted by Matt Vaughan in the 49th minute.

A 52nd minute try for the visitors by skipper Bulloch was followed by another try in the corner for Blackheath's irresistible Smith.

With 13 minutes left, and the score 40-43 to the Barbarians, the visitors, throwing the ball around even from their own try-line, pushed further ahead with two tries from the Baa-Baas' man-of-the-match, Lee, and Welsh international full back Kevin Morgan.

Blackheath were not finished, however and constant probing by Simpson and a massive effort from the Club's tireless pack resulted in James Catt crashing over for a try with the weight of his fellow forwards behind him to bring the final score to 57-45.

Barbarians president Micky Steele-Bodger said: "Words cannot express how happy I am to be here with the Barbarians this evening, and what we have had served up in the field of play has been exceptional. My heartiest congratulations are extended to all concerned.

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