Home bonus point win in entertaining and high scoring match
Pack performance and defence are critical factors
Heathfield 32 Dartfordians 24
Heathfield secured a remarkable five tries to four win over the second placed team in the league in a highly entertaining and nerve-jangling match. Heathfield have been playing well in recent games, chiefly once the game was lost. This hard-earned-result was not a freak as an all-round team performance ensured that an early try against them was soon cancelled out and great defence contained a challenging second half counter by the visitors.
Early home pressure was duly countered as Darts came back up the slight slope with their fly half and inside centre making the first of their important contributions on the day. A slightly fortuitous penalty gave them an attacking lineout in the left hand corner and they duly drove over for a try illustrating the efficiency that has marked their league campaign this year (0-5). However the conversion was missed and given the closeness of the final score the visiting kicker’s inaccuracy may well have cost them the game.
Heathfield immediately replied with some good handling by backs and forwards to be rewarded with a Harry Reilly penalty (3-5). After about 15 minutes the visiting hooker had to retire from the fray and this may have been one of the key moments as the home scrummage had clear dominance for the rest of the first half. The visitors were nonetheless pressing into the home twenty two when good defensive pressure gave Colt Toby Wallace an interception chance and he had the pace to touch down at the other end to claim his first try as a senior player, Reilly converting well (10-5).
Naturally Darts quickly replied with some of their best play in the match and impressive support play resulted in a try, but again the conversion was missed (10-10). Almost immediately a kick out of defence by Darts was gratefully received by Ollie Brown and he now made one of his best runs this year from the home 22 to the visiting 22 for Toby Warren to carry on and Wallace to plunge over for his second. Reilly naturally converted (17-10).
This was now a cracking game with thrust and counter-thrust. The visitors again charged back and it took a remarkable tackle back by second row Henry Ross to deny a threatening move. However the home scrummage was now in control providing plentiful secure ball and another attack into the left hand corner was just held up. This merely delayed a score briefly as Fraser Goatcher soon charged over from at least three yards (this had extended to double figures by the time I left the clubhouse) (22-10). This was a just reward for the home eight who consistently drove on and often worked the blindside with the better accuracy that the coaches have been striving for recently.
An early score in the second half could have been decisive and Darts had some early pressure but an important lineout steal by Ross did much to contain them. Heathfield worked their way into the visiting 22 again chiefly though excellent forward play and finally Goatcher was able to claim a brace on the day (from even closer range) (27-10) and a welcome try bonus point.
With nearly half an hour left many sides would have meekly accepted the inevitable result. The Darts are made of sterner stuff and now quickly scored two converted tries with some skilful running in their backs combined with fine support (27-24), also thus collecting a try bonus point. And Heathfield were further handicapped as Reilly was binned for his comments regarding the legality of the visitors’ last try. It has to be said that he was not the only person who thought there had been the odd forward pass and knock on in that score.
With a quarter of the game left few would have guessed that there would be just one more score. Heathfield’s defence in the period that Reilly was resting decided the game as they successfully just contained the visitors’ attacks. Notably Darts had at least two kickable penalties that they chose to run, illustrating their critical lack of a kicker on the day.
Darts had one final threatening attack into the home bottom corner that was just contained by the three Browns, Ollie at full back and twins Jack and Sam. The twins are another example of the success of the club’s junior system and there are plenty more where they came from.
That was the last defiance by the visitors as Heathfield surged back into the top corner and eventually Haidar Maliki muscled his way over to complete the victory (32-24), duly saluted by the entirely sober and well-behaved balcony (nobody reads this stuff). Maliki does much unheralded work in defence that creates opportunities for others and the whole squad was delighted for him.
Ollie Stables (again), Ethan Walker and Oli Robertshaw were among those picked out for particular commendation afterwards but this was a genuine team performance.
We are not yet half way through the league calendar so it would be premature to make too many predictions. But this result, and in particular the performance, suggest that this young home-grown Heathfield side are deserving of their place at this level. The previous report said that the team needed to start delivering results not moral victories – job done!
After a week’s rest Heathfield next visit Horsham (19 Nov 2.30).