THE Tynedale revival didn’t so much gather pace as grind efficiently on as their recent discovery of forward power carried them to a third successive win.
When they lost 51-7 at Blaydon before Christmas their first relegation looked certain as they had won only three out of 16 games in National One.
Now the Great Escape looks possible, especially if they can maintain the momentum by overcoming the horrendous journey to overhaul this week’s hosts, Worthing.
Tynedale have always had sprightly backs and, given a firm surface, they like to run the ball. But in Saturday’s cloying conditions they relied on the pack for all five tries, although it was their ninth forward, Ben Frankland, who applied the finishing touches.
The former Westoe back row man has been converted into a centre by Tynedale, but he joined the forward fray to bag four tries from line-out drives. The fifth was a penalty try awarded when a fivemetre scrum went down.
Much work must have gone into the transformation since they were pulverised at Blaydon and nowhere was this more evident than in the scrum, where tight head Mark Irving forms a formidable cornerstone at 6ft 4in and 21st.
The defence was also impressive, especially when they crucially survived a sixminute period when they were down to 13 men either side of half-time.
Former Newcastle lock Andy Buist was yellow-carded for illegally halting a maul which had been driven 15 metres to the line and the resultant penalty try reduced the gap to 12-10.
When flanker Dan Temm followed him to the bin in similar circumstances four minutes later the lead looked certain to change hands.
But when Blackheath kicked the penalty to the corner their line-out drive was repelled on the stroke of halftime, then they butchered a good chance to score three minutes after the break.
Tynedale broke out strongly and once back to full strength they took command to move above their visitors and out of the bottom three.
Some of the personnel who have helped to turn things round, such as prop Matty Shields, were missing and loyalties will be tested by the trip to Worthing.
After an overnight stop at Hemel Hempstead on the way down they will come straight back after the match, probably arriving just in time for milking.
But the current signs are that Tynedale will fight until the cows come home to avoid relegation.
It’s a big step from Durham School to play at this level, but Billingham product Craig Willis showed he has come to terms with it on his switch to full back.
A member of the Newcastle Falcons Academy, he is not 19 until next month, but his powerful kicking out of defence was impressive. He also converted the first try from the right touchline, only to miss the next two conversions and a penalty from easier positions.
It could have been costly as the match was still in the balance with 20 minutes left. But a penalty try provided Willis with a simple conversion and the final one was also straightforward.
Blackheath were good value for an early 3-0 lead, but Tynedale went ahead after 13 minutes and after Frankland’s second they were pressing again when scrum half Matty Outson put in an overhead kick to the corner.
It might have looked clever but it was patently the wrong option, giving Blackheath space to run the ball out.
The did so to good effect and were awarded their penalty try shortly afterwards. But their failure to capitalise on Tynedale’s two yellow cards was a clear indication that they weren’t good enough to seize control.
Tynedale showed commendable enterprise after the break with some good handling.
But forward power won the day and once Frankland bagged his third they were not going to be denied.