Horsham squeeze past Heathfield
Horsham eventually won this highly competitive contest which was both a London SE3 League game and a semi-final in the Sussex Bob Rogers Cup.
On the excellent Horsham pitch Heathfield had first use of the slight slope and a chill breeze over their left shoulders as they had the better of the opening exchanges. A penalty chance drifted wide but after less than ten minutes a good attack in the left hand corner was held up and then good hands moved the ball wide for Ollie Brown to finish well in the right hand corner (0-5).
Generally Heathfield tried to use the conditions by kicking into the bottom corner near the clubhouse and indeed most of the play in the first quarter was in the home half. Even so Horsham were playing with the confidence of a team at the top of the league and their back division always looked dangerous. They managed several attacks into the visitors’ half and the Heathfield defence was being stretched. However, especially near the breakdown, the visitors successfully pressured Horsham ball carriers.
The lead was extended on the half hour by a Heathfield penalty from Ken Hellier (0-8). However Horsham, as they did on other occasions in the game, recovered the ball from the restart and were soon rewarded with a try from some decent handling and support play (5-8).
The scrummage was messy all day and Horsham probably had a slight edge although Munch May was being very effective in disrupting the home ball at the base of the scrum harassing his opposite number. Heathfield had rather the better of the lineout and managed several steals while mostly securing their own ball on a day when the cold wind made throwing in difficult. Jo Rushton, on just his second appearance at this level, was having another industrious day at the breakdown in spite of a leg injury.
At fly half Bryn Jones continued his recent excellent form with some abrasive defence and challenging runs ball in hand.
In the second half an early Horsham penalty chance was missed but they soon took the lead with a try as the home hooker made good ground from broken play and then delivered a fine pass to put his winger into the left hand corner (10-8). Richard Cooley was replaced by Fraser Goatcher and later on Rushton was replaced by George Leney.
This was now an excellent game with periods of pressure at both ends. The crucial moment came when Heathfield had worked their way deep into the home half through a sequence of forward drives. Eventually Olie Robertshaw took the ball on and was brought down a few yards out but the whistle went for a penalty for not releasing (unusually promptly according to many spectators) so Horsham were able to clear their lines and the chance was lost. A Heathfield score taking the lead at that point would have been a considerable challenge to the home side on a low scoring day.
The penalty and free kick count was massively against Heathfield in the second half and skipper Ollie Smith seemed to have endless conversations with the referee, apparently to little effect. The put-in to the scrum is an easy point for spectators to see and the game generally would benefit from consistency in this area. It was also unusual for such a high number of penalties without any use of the yellow card.
As a result Horsham had the better of the closing stages and two more penalties gradually took them to safety and denied the visitors even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Heathfield will be pleased to have produced a better performance than in the match between these two sides earlier in the season. However they will be irritated at what feels like a chance missed and would suggest that the contest was even closer than the scoreline suggests. Horsham look very likely to be promoted and they appear equipped to cope with that challenge, as long as they develop the necessary depth. Heathfield wish them well and look forward to renewing acquaintance in a couple of years.
After a week off Heathfield next entertain Lewes at Cross-In-Hand (21 February 2.30).