Hove were comfortable winners over Heathfield as might have been expected from the relative league positions. In particular the visitors’ back division was too accurate and slick for the as usual much-changed Heathfield three-quarters.
In excellent conditions Hove started the game at a high tempo and, aided by several home penalty offences, soon collected their first points from a penalty before the home side had even touched the ball. Thereafter Heathfield did begin to secure some possession and to make ground in midfield through the forwards although a penalty chance just went wide.
Hove continued to have the better of the game chiefly through their backs and their first try came after twenty minutes when they achieved good position in the left hand corner and then efficient close driving took them over the line.
Heathfield did soon reply with a Harry Reilly penalty but this was almost immediately answered with a fine Hove try in the right hand corner after several phases and good support play.
Then a promising Heathfield attack down the right flank was disrupted by a remarkable steal in the tackle by the Hove left wing who then had the pace to run back from the half way line for an impressive individual score (3-22).
Just before half time the game was sadly halted by a serious ankle injury to the visitors’ number 8, Charlie Dagwell, and Heathfield send him their best wishes and hope for a speedy recovery.
The game was now moved to another pitch and the second half started with Heathfield’s best period in the game. A penalty in front of the posts gave Heathfield a good attacking scrum and Oli Robertshaw did well to work his way over. Hove soon replied with another good try from excellent handling across the pitch but then Heathfield surged back and had a period of sustained pressure under the visitors’ posts. Robertshaw again went close but eventually Munch May burrowed his way over for a score of 17-29.
This was as close as the home side got to causing an upset. Thereafter Hove collected three more converted tries although two of them came from Heathfield errors with an awkwardly bouncing ball evading Henry Ross for one and then a misdirected pass giving the Hove right wing an easy finish. The precision of the visitors’ backs was the key factor in the outcome as the home three quarters struggled for accuracy, not least because of their lack of time together – a familiar story this year.
The home scrummage had a generally good day although later personnel changes allowed the visitors to restore some equilibrium. Many of the home forwards had a good day with Ollie Smith making a number of useful carries, Ross was especially effective in disrupting the visitors’ lineout and skipper Haidar Maliki put in much unobtrusive but very effective defensive work.
Heathfield will take particular pleasure in having fielded three teams today with a total of 60 players involved and without the need to switch players from one team to another. This has been a difficult season for the team management in turning out three teams most weeks, more than many clubs in Sussex and thus remarkable given the small catchment area on which the club is based.
The attendees of the Vice Presidents' lunch were joined on the touchline by a decent crowd of supporters from both clubs which made for a good atmosphere on the day. It was also good to see plenty of the successful Heathfield Ladies team there to support their male colleagues. All Heathfield members will have been interested in the latest plans for the clubhouse and facilities development for which fund-raising is underway and which are much needed because of the success of Heathfield teams across all ages and genders.
Hove now have a decisive couple of weeks to see if they or Charlton Park can secure the promotion play off spot as runners up in the league. Heathfield look forward to playing either or both of them next season.
Next week Heathfield visit Dover for the last league game of this season (14 April 3.00).
It’s our final Kids First Champion for the season! David ‘Flats’ Flatman and two special guests surprise Ellingham & Ringwood RFC.