Eight tries to nil bonus point victory
Strong forward performance provides platform
Heathfield 47 Pulborough 0
Heathfield secured an emphatic eight try home win against Pulborough who were handicapped by player availability and injury issues.
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of John Clayton who had died a few days ago. John had been a great supporter of Heathfield in several ways and he will be much missed not just in material terms but also for his character and sense of humour.
Earlier rain died away by the start of the game but it left a greasy surface which led to multiple handling errors. There was little wind and Pulborough chose to play down the slight slope initially.
Several early lineouts hinted at problems in that phase for the visitors and Heathfield gradually started to exert some control. With ten minutes gone a lineout was driven on into the balcony corner and then from the following lineout good forward organisation allowed Fraser Goatcher
to open the scoring (5-0).
The home scrummage had a clear edge and repeatedly worked the visitors’ pack back gradually several metres before releasing the ball. The Pulborough scrummage always kept its shape under serious pressure, and rallied well in the second half: their loose head, Alan Nye, was afterwards especially applauded as a 50 year old who last week was playing third team rugby and who lasted the full eighty minutes today. Respect!
However with the home set piece in good order most of the play was in the visitors’ half. At the end of the first quarter a sequence of forward drives finally saw the ball released wide and then good support play allowed Oli Robertshaw to work his way over in front of the delighted balcony (10-0).
Heathfield were rightly playing to their strengths while Pulborough looked to bring their talented backs into the game. On a couple of occasions they counter-attacked from deep with their right winger showing a good sidestep and they were just denied a score by a knock on few metres out.
However this was against the run of play. A home lineout went wrong but Henry Ross
somehow retrieved the ball and then made good yards into the left hand corner to initiate a series of drives on the visitors’ try line. Goatcher probably touched down for another try but the referee was unsighted. Nonetheless from the resulting scrum Ed Koops
eventually worked his way over (15-0). Then in the last play before the interval Harry Reilly
knocked over a penalty to conclude a very satisfactory half for Heathfield (18-0).
Pulborough had their best period in the game at the start of the second half as they showed considerable heart with repeated attacks into the home half. A score at this stage would have made for a very interesting game with Heathfield’s confidence being under pressure after a sequence of losses. However the bigger home forwards gradually reasserted control as they generally won the contest for the ball. Any hopes for the visitors were probably extinguished after 15 minutes of the half as Nick Cook
collected a fine (bonus point) try at the end of a long period of play involving multiple phases and an effective cross kick by Reilly (23-0).
Ross went close in the left hand corner after another lengthy period of play. This was not a one-sided game and Toby Warren
was having to do some very effective defensive work in his unaccustomed position at outside centre.
However in the last quarter Heathfield doubled the try count as the basic rugby realities of a dominant pack took their toll. First Ollie Smith worked his way over from a maul near the posts (30-0). Lewis Headland
collected the next after a messy period of play when the ball was retrieved from a chip through by Reilly (35-0). Then with five minutes left Munch May
showed some delightful individual skill with a chip ahead which he recovered and found Henry Armstrong
to collect a deserved try in the bottom corner (40-0).
The final try came from an attacking lineout in the bottom corner which was moved into midfield and inevitably Robertshaw arrived to claim the score (47-0). Reilly converted this and just one other of the eight tries although it has to be said that many of them were not easy.
Pulborough fielded a much changed side today and their makeshift side showed great heart against a bigger side. However Heathfield, who know all too much about player availability issues this year (and had a mere six changes from last week), are not a charity when league points are at stake and they did what had to be done.
One of the reasons behind Heathfield’s better performance today was the return of Ollie Stables at hooker: apart from a solid scrummage effort and some dynamic tackling his throwing in to the lineout was key in a much improved performance in that phase which has been a weakness in recent weeks. Ross and Cook were the other major contributors on the day with ball steals and carries for many hard yards.
Next week Heathfield entertain Chichester II in a Bob Rogers Sussex Cup game (18 Nov 2.00). They will also be looking forward to the following week when Deal come visiting in an interesting league game. Deal had a big home win today against Horsham so the bottom third of the SE2 league table is looking as tight as ever.