A fine open match, hard-fought but played in the right spirit.
Blackheath led for almost the entire contest after Paul Humphries had opened the scoring in the fifth minute with the first of a total of 15 tries, but the tourists could never relax against an opposition (featuring Ken Aseme at number-eight) who kept chivvying at the advantage throughout, and who provided considerably stiffer resistance than the Grunions from further up the Californian coast last Sunday.
The weather was a vast improvement too, the deluge of Santa Barbara giving way to cloud followed by sunshine, even enticing a few wasps to come out to play, to the discomfort of some of the participants.
A neat flick from the base of a ruck from Tom Bason to Humphries set Blackheath on their way, and it was same combination seven minutes later, as the Club second-row showed a lovely dummy before off-loading for the inside-centre to cross for his second try.
However, playing up the slope of the Daniel Webster Middle School playing surface, Santa Monica quickly responded. A penalty from fly-half Brian O’Shea had already opened the Dolphins’ account, but a try from scrum-half Danny Caprio, making the most of a loose pass from the opposition, and then an interception score from O’Shea, put the hosts ahead 15-14 on 23 minutes.
One area the Dolphins didn’t have an answer to, though, was the power of the Blackheath forwards and in the 33rd minute the tourists turned that dominance into points. Marshaled by Dave Packer at number-eight, captaining the Club side in his final game before retirement, and with 17-year old Jesse Liston having a great match at open-side, a five-meter scrum produced a simple try in the corner for Joseph Shimizu. Sam Windsor added a third conversion and at half-time Blackheath led 21-15.
Within a minute of the re-start Tyson Lewis was away up the left touch-line for try number four, and the Club wing was angry a few moments later when, in a similar move, the referee adjudged (correctly) that he’d placed a foot in touch as he was tackled just short of the goal-line. Nevertheless, the Americans made a hash of the quick line-out for Bason to add another score, and although Dolphins’ inside-centre Kelly Serfoss showed great hands to respond quickly with a try at the other end, Lewis’ second legitimate effort kept Blackheath in control at 40-22.
Now though the hosts hauled themselves back within range. Outside center Alistair Ross showed lovely footballing skills in his chip ahead for a score on 57 minutes, and when O’Shea followed his own try and conversion with his second penalty for a deliberate knock-on, the Dolphins narrowed the deficit to just three points.
But almost straight from the re-start, Matt Vaughan’s kick ahead stopped neatly over the goal-line for the completion of Lewis’ hat-trick, followed up by more forward power, allowing Ben Ibrahim to send Pete Squires in for a try, and although Dolphins’ full-back Rob Knox scored a sixth for the Californians, the last word fell to Sam Windsor who cantered in for the final score of the match.
“Considering we have been on tour for seven days and seven nights I thought the boys were outstanding”, said Yusuf Ibrahim afterwards. “Especially in the last twenty minutes of the second period when it was even and we dug in very deep to pull away.”
“We showed a lot of Blackheath character and we are going to have a big night tonight. I must say the hosts have been fantastic.”
Of the opposition Blackheath’s Performance Director went on. “I thought they played really well, especially their outside-centre who was outstanding. Maybe one we can invite to south-east London,” he added with a smile.
Sadly the match scheduled for Monday evening against Belmont Shore will not now go ahead. On Tuesday the tour party moves on to Las Vegas where the final match of the tour against Sin City Irish will take place on Saturday evening.
Tries: Carpio, O’Shea 2, Serfoss, Ross, Knox
Conv: O’Shea 3
Pens: O’Shea 2
Tries: Humphries 2, Shimizu, Lewis 3, Bason, Squires, Windsor (Sam)
Conv: Windsor (Sam) 5
15. Pete Squires
14. Joseph Shimizu
13. Richard Windsor
12. Paul Humphries
11. Tyson Lewis
10. Sam Windsor
9. Ben Ibrahim
1. Simon Legg
2. Jake Lock
3. Nick Winwood
4. Tom Bason
5. Neil Dewale
6. Gavin Wallis
7. Jesse Liston
8. Dave Packer (Capt)
16. James Cleverly
17. Chris Jones
18. Matt Vaughan
19. Niall Lear