Resilient Beckenham overcome much-changed Heathfield
Fine solo try by Marcus Hendry cannot compensate for lineout frailties
Heathfield 8 Beckenham 21
Heathfield finally gave best to Beckenham at the end of an entertaining and fluctuating game. The home side were perhaps unlucky not to collect a losing bonus point but were handicapped by some poor execution, especially in the lineout. So far this season in the four league games before this match Heathfield had used 32 different players as a result of injuries and availability issues which has handicapped the development of any consistent units in the team. This week saw seven changes in the starting 15 from last week for similar reasons so the final outcome today was not surprising.
In good conditions Heathfield initially played down the slope and with the wind. The visitors had an early penalty opportunity but it drifted wide. Heathfield had some decent positions, at least partly from some good kicking out of hand by Sean Crozier
. However it soon became apparent that the change in personnel was having a major impact on the home lineout which had a generally poor day and often ruined otherwise promising situations. It has to be said that the Beckenham lineout also creaked and often coughed up possession but they seemed to have more variations and clearly won that phase.
Beckenham achieved a good attacking position in the left hand corner from a penalty and will be disappointed not to have scored at this point. However after a couple of scrums Heathfield contained the attack and then secured a 22 drop-out which Fabian Rimmer
belted a massive distance downfield, dribbling into touch, relieving the pressure.
With fifteen minutes gone Marcus Hendry
kicked a tricky penalty to open the scoring (3-0). Heathfield enjoyed several effective passages of play with one pleasing handling move involving multiple players including Gus Taylor, Fraser Goatcher
, Oli Robertshaw and Munch May
before it was just contained by the cover. Beckenham were looking dangerous on the counterattack and it took a fine tackle back by Ben Boorman
to snuff out one such attack after the visiting fly half, Louis Richards, had made many yards in midfield.
Robertshaw had one useful run from the back of a lineout after a poor Beckenham throw but Heathfield rarely looked like taking advantage of the conditions to build the necessary lead for what was going to be a testing second half.
Just before half time Taylor had to leave the field for what looked to be a serious arm injury. He has been very effective this season, including in this game, and his absence will be noticed in the weeks ahead. He was replaced by Sam Shillabeer.
The scrummage was messy all day, partly due to the two loose head props being noticeably bulkier than their colleagues. Neither scrum achieved dominance although the Heathfield one was sometimes under pressure and Robertshaw did some effective tidying up in such situations. Later in the second half the referee lectured both front rows after a succession of untidy scrummages. Heathfield were then penalised when the next scrum wheeled but puzzlingly no further penalties were awarded for the frequent wheels in the rest of the game.
The referee, who normally operates at a higher level, clearly enjoyed the game as well as some banter with female home supporters on the bottom side of the pitch. Some also appreciated his eye-catching colour coordinated shocking pink shirt and boots.
Five minutes into the second half Hendry scored a magnificent try with a solo effort from his own 22. Collecting a long kick out of the Beckenham defence he evaded the follow up and then danced up the left touch line, before chipping ahead and pouncing on a fumble by a defender on the try line (8-0).
This was the home high water mark and most of the rest of the game was played in the home half. First a tap penalty was moved into midfield and Richards made good yards before finding Tane Feldhaus-Davies who dived over under the posts (8-7). Toby Warren
was injured in trying to stop the try and was briefly replaced by yet another Heathfield debutant, Will Tyler
May made one handy run from a tap penalty and was unfortunate not to find Boorman cruising up alongside him. May did some gutsy work in defence, often against much larger opponents. Tom Pritchard
put in another fine shift doing the unspectacular but essential work at close quarters.
However Beckenham probably shaded the breakdown with several key turnovers.
The last quarter started with an extended period of Beckenham pressure on the home try line. Just when it seemed that this had been contained Feldhaus-Davies stepped his way to his second try on the day (8-14).
Shillabeer was now replaced by Jack Smith
making a welcome reappearance at this level. Home supporters were starting to accept the likely outcome with the losing bonus point when Beckenham’s Richards was binned for a dangerous tackle and this energised Heathfield who sensed a chance to snatch a result. They drove into the corner under the clubhouse balcony and repeated attacks finally ended as the ball was knocked forward over the line.
However Beckenham had the final say as they surged back down the slope and Feldhaus-Davies provided the scoring pass for his side’s third try which denied the home side even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Given the multiple personnel changes, this might seem a decent piece of damage limitation against one of this league’s stronger sides but actually the closeness of the contest left many home supporters feeling frustrated at how near the team had been to a result.
After a welcome week off Heathfield next visit unbeaten league leaders Dartordians (21 October 3.00pm) for what will be a tough engagement. The coaches will be hoping to achieve a more stable team selection in the weeks ahead.