Horsham win fierce battle of the green shirts
Weather and error count handicap Heathfield
Horsham 17 Heathfield 3
Horsham deservedly won a fiercely-contested but scrappy game with two well-taken tries. The excellent Horsham pitch was negated by the cold and some occasional wintry showers which made handling difficult. There was some persistent niggle between the teams and while Heathfield had the better of the forward battle they rarely threatened the home try line. The visitors also had a much-changed back division with two youngsters making their first appearance at this level and Theo Rimmer and Sam Shillabeer will have learnt much from this tough introduction.
From the start Heathfield forwards worked well with some good drives and support play, with skipper Sam Goatcher making some threatening runs. Although Heathfield took the first scrum against the head, thereafter the home scrum just about held their own albeit under some pressure. The home team looked to have some dangerous backs but were unable to exploit them at this stage with Haidar Maliki making his usual but still much appreciated physical impact in defence.
At the end of the first quarter forward pressure resulted in a kickable penalty for Heathfield and Harry Reilly duly collected the points (0-3). However almost immediately Horsham used good lineout ball to go wide and their right winger finished well against some young Heathfield defenders (7-3).
Gus Taylor now had to retire with an injury for Alex Wexler to make his second appearance at this level and to be one of the people who were afterwards especially picked out for their efforts.
There were a couple of outbreaks of handbags at this point and the referee had words with both skippers.
Horsham extended their lead with a penalty (10-3) but the last few minutes of the half were dominated by Heathfield. A good attacking lineout in the right hand corner was cleanly won and instead of the anticipated forward drive the ball went wide for an ambitious set move in the backs but the ball did not go to hand and Horsham were able to scramble clear. There was comment afterwards that the quality of execution had dropped from the previous game: this can partly be explained by the unpleasant conditions but also by the persistent pressure from Horsham.
At half time the result was still in doubt. The penalty count at that stage of 9-4 against the home side reflected the pressure that Heathfield were bringing to bear. David Bayly was doing some fine work in his unfamiliar role of outside centre but the visitors’ back division generally had a tough day against useful opponents.
More handbags marked the start of the second half. The home loose head was now binned, reportedly for stamping. Both sides had periods of pressure into the opposing 22 but Heathfield were unable to exploit the extra man. Oli Robertshaw and Oli Stables were noted with some useful runs but the home defence just proved adequate.
The decisive score came with about 20 minutes remaining when quick ruck ball on the visitors’ 22 was moved wide for a score in the left hand corner, impressively converted (17-3).
The last quarter was played in increasing gloom and Horsham probably had some justification in their request for the referee to change his shirt as it became difficult to distinguish him from the Heathfield players.
Regrettably Goatcher received a red card at this stage. However the home side were unable to benefit from the extra man. Indeed Heathfield had two promising attacking lineouts but one was turned over and Horsham defended the other successfully.
Next Saturday (26 Nov 2.30) Heathfield visit the east Kent coast for what is always a tough game against Deal & Betteshanger.