Heathfield were well beaten by an efficient Beckenham team which made better use of the conditions.
When these two clubs met earlier in the season Heathfield were in the middle of selection turmoil due to availability issues and injuries. Just four of the team that started in that previous fixture were on the pitch today. By contrast today’s Heathfield team showed just three changes from the last game against Barking as availability and injuries have improved since the Xmas break.
Beckenham won the toss and sensibly elected to face the stiff cold breeze in the first half and they effectively won the game in that period although the points did not come until later.
Heathfield did not secure much possession in the first half and did not make efficient use of what they did have. It was not until the half hour that the first long positional kick provided a potential attacking platform. Before that there had been too many attempts to keep the ball in hand and the home pack gratefully absorbed the pressure and eventually turned the ball over. Cold and wet conditions made ball handling difficult all day and allowed plenty of barracking from the warm dry crowd in front of the clubhouse.
Heathfield had one significant chance when Lewis Headland dived through the middle of a close range lineout but he was adjudged to have been held up and the home side was then able to work their way out of trouble. Ed Koops was noted throughout the game with carries in heavy traffic and good tackling: Harry Vidler also put in a characteristically abrasive shift on the flank, alternating with an equally hard-working Tom Pritchard who had to retire occasionally with a spectacular bloody nose. Fraser Goatcher had his opposing prop under pressure although the referee had issues with his angles.
Beckenham opened the scoring near the half hour with a penalty but Heathfield almost immediately replied as their midfield pressure allowed Tom Glenn to seize on loose ball and show his footballing skills before recovering the ball under the home posts, duly converted by Harry Reilly (3-7).
In the final minutes of the half the Beckenham eight gave an ominous warning of things to come as they drove a maul some thirty metres upfield.
The scrummage was a good contest all day – and could have been edged by Heathfield if Goatcher had been allowed to exploit his superiority.
Having failed to utilise the wind in the first half, which many thought worth at least 10 points, Heathfield were always going to be under the cosh for the rest of the game. Once Beckenham had established a good attacking position from a penalty, their first try came from a routine lineout catch and drive (8-7).
Heathfield did drive back into the home half and secured a penalty chance but the increasingly stiff breeze pushed the kick wide.
The home side were looking much in control and it was no surprise when their fly half, who had a fine all round game, stepped his way under the posts (15-7). He also created their next try when he put in a charging second row under the posts (22-7).
The game was now disfigured by an unseemly fracas involving many players and which resulted in a yellow card for the home inside centre. That may not be the end of that affair so there will be no further comment here.
In the last few minutes Beckenham collected their try bonus point as ‘Fred’ made good yards and a youthful substitute dived into the right hand corner. With the result decided the game petered out in cold drizzle and a succession of confusing penalties with everyone just waiting for the final whistle.
Next Saturday Heathfield entertain unbeaten league leaders Dartfordians (3 Feb 2.30)
It’s our final Kids First Champion for the season! David ‘Flats’ Flatman and two special guests surprise Ellingham & Ringwood RFC.